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FORM NO. 609; 9,20,38: lOOM. 


Down North on the Labrador 

Illustrated, 12mo, cloth, - net $1.00 

A new collection of Labrador yarns by the man who 
has succeeded in making isolated Labrador a part of 
the known world. Like its predecessor, while con- 
fined exclusively to facts in Dr. Grenfell's daily life, 
the new volume is full of romance, adventure and 

Down to the Sea 

Illustrated, 12mo, cloth, - net $1.00 

"This new volume shows Dr. Grenfell's character- 
istics in generous measure." — New York Times, 

The Harvest of the Sea 

A Tale of Both Sides of the Atlantic. 

Illustrated, 12mo, cloth, - net $1.00 

"Relates the life of the North Sea fishermen on the 
now famous Dogger Bank; the cruel apprenticeship, 
the bitter life, the gallant deeds. Real sea tales that 
will appeal to every one." — N. Y. Sun. 

Dr. Grenfell's Parish 

The Deep Sea Fisherman. 

Illustrated, 12mo, cloth, - net $1.00 

"It is a series of sketches of Grenfell's work in Lab- 
rador. A very rare picture the author has given of a 
very rare man ; a true stoiy of adventure which we 
should like to see in the hands of everyone." — Outlook 


\L*J rix\ 




Wilfred T. Grenfell, 

Member of the Royal College of Surgeons, etc., etc. 




* > » . j 

• > • 

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Akftf ?V£ Chicago Toronto 

"Fleming H. Revell Company 

London and Edinburgh 



Copyright, 1905, by k ^ :? % HO 

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New York: 158 Fifth Avenue 
Chicago: 125 North Wabash Ave. 
Toronto: 25 Richmond Street, W. 
London: 21 Paternoster Square 
Edinburgh: 100 Princes Street 


Introduction ..... 9 

I. I Am Apprenticed to the Fisheries . 1 1 

II. A Change of Berth . . . . 21 

III. The Grog-Ship and its Victims . 29 

IV. A Hero of the Fishing Fleet . . 33 

V. The Sea Claims '* Darkie Jim " . . 44 

VI. The Coming of the Gospel . . 52 

VII. Dark Days for the Missioner . . 60 

VIII. The Mission-Ship Takes Us by Surprise 66 

IX. Little Billy's First Sermon . . 73 

X. What the Grog-Ship did for Skipper 

Tom ...... 79 

XI. The Fight Against the Copers . . 86 

XII. Three Hundred Miles to a Hospital 92 

XIII. A Great Surgeon Comes ... 99 

XIV. Looking Out for the Men Ashore . 104 

XV. Off the Coast of Labrador . . 112 

XVI. The Labradorman's Story . . . 117 

XVII. The Labrador Eskimo and the Mora- 

vian Missionaries . . . .126 

XVIII. How We did Without a Doctor . 132 

XIX. " Preach the Word — Heal the Sick " 138 

XX. What the Hospital Ship Meant to 

Labrador . . . . .144 

XXI. Where Poverty Means Starvation . 151 

XXII. Helping Others to Help Themselves 157 


Some Reapers of the Harvest 

" Our Fleet was called the Red- White " 

Drink is not the Fisherman's only Enemy 

" Within an Ace of being Cut Down ' 

" A Lot of Fish on Deck " 

" The Ensign Joined the Fleet " 

" When the Fleet Boarded Fish " 

" Skippers that Threw in their Lot " 

" There was Better Fun than on the Grog-ship 


" The Little Boat with the Helpless Man in it " 
" Almost Every Sort of Sailing Craft " 

The Neighbours " . 

Capelin Run High and Dry on the Shore " 

They are Really the Great Cod " . 
" Many of the Patients were not fit to be left " 

A Splendid little Hospital Amidships " 

Facing page 














EVERY one takes an interest in the sea 
rovers of old. No boy but is thrilled by the 
stories of Drake and Hawkins, of Frank- 
lin, Frobisher and John Paul Jones. Stories of 
heroic courage and indomitable energy still in- 
spire us with a longing to lead nobler lives our- 
selves, and though in all ages the hardest battles 
have had to be fought in other spheres than 
the physical, yet in this twentieth century, when 
from childhood to the grave so many breathe an 
atmosphere of enervation, thank God we still 
love and admire anything that suggests to us 
the same great qualities that nerved those heroes 
of old ! 

They are other motives that in these days 
actuate the Toilers of the Deep to fight again in 
small vessels the same fight with the mighty 
elements, far off upon the seas, while w r e in the 
gales of winter enjoy the warmth and shelter of 
our homes on the land. Yet can we think that 
the motive, which is to provide for wives and 
children the blessings of the land, is less noble, 
because it involves the humble calling of the 



fisherman, than if it meant the shedding of blood, 
perhaps for reasons no loftier than greed for gold 
or desire for the praise of men ? 

For over twenty years I have lived among the 
deep-sea fishermen on both sides of the Atlantic, 
and I can safely challenge any man to say that 
they are unworthy representatives of an an- 
cestry we love to boast of. The same courage, 
even unto death, I have seen exhibited again 
and again, and that where no other spur to 
action existed than the imperious conscience of 
a brave sailor. No reward was looked for, no 
mead of praise obtained. Yet I have seen men 
go to save a human life, where heroes might 
have feared to follow; for more than once it 
meant passing, alone and unobserved, into the 
Valley of the Shadow of Death. 

My story aims to give some idea of the lives 
we live, and how these marvellous things were 
done for us. It is an attempt to describe a social 
revolution, and the going forth to us, in our 
homes at sea, of the old, old story, with the same 
power as in ages past. 1 have thought it wise 
to have two of my fishermen friends tell the 
story of this transformation. 

Wilfred Grenfell. 



EXACTLY where I first saw the light I do 
not know. I suppose it must have been 
in a more or less comfortable home. My 
father, I believe, was a master carpenter, and as 
such should have earned wages enough to keep 
the family in moderate comfort at least. But 
drink and bad company proved his and our ruin, 
as it has many another's, and long before I knew 
my right hand from my left, he had disappeared 
and left us to live or die as Fate determined. 

Faint recollections of a dingy garret of which 
we rented one corner rise in my memory at 
times ; and then I recall the neighbours' taking 
away our mother, and things being even worse 
than before, because she never came back. Poor 
mother ! all she left behind her was Tom and 
Jessie and me. Tom was six years older than I, 

12 The HARVEST of The SEA 

and on him devolved the task of feeding us. 
But it was the kindness of neighbours that really- 
kept us from starvation in the corner of that old 
garret where we still lived. I remember the poor 
heap of straw that served us as a bed as well as 
if it were yesterday, and the horrible cold draught 
that swept under the rickety door and made 
straight for our corner, and often kept us so cold 
that, huddled up as we were into a living ball, we 
were still unable to gain the blissful forgetfulness 
of sleep. I soon learnt to earn a few odd cop- 
pers by turning summersaults beside the tram- 
cars that plied along the crowded street. Many 
a time I nearly choked myself by having to 
carry my earnings in my mouth, my ragged gar- 
ments being innocent of sound pockets. So 
hungry have I been, when luck was bad, that I 
would follow the carts as they went to the great 
sugar refinery in Whitechapel, and lick the drip- 
pings from the empty puncheons. 

One night I was awakened by a bright light in 
my face, and a great man in blue clothes turning 
me roughly over. 

" What's your name, youngster ? " he asked. 

" I don't know," I answered ; " Jess calls me 


He talked a long time with some of our fellow 
lodgers, and then told me to come along, and he 
would send for Jess later on. I never saw Jess 
again. They told me they had put her in an 
orphanage, and I believe she was sent to Canada 
later on. Next day they took me to a great 
room, crowded with people. Tom was there, 
between two policemen. They said he had 
stolen some fruit from one of those greengrocers' 
stalls that stand out on the sidewalk. If he had, 
I don't think it was so bad as the judge made 
out, for I know he had the pain of hunger in his 
stomach often enough. They said, however, it 
was time to make an " example," so Tom was 
sent to a reformatory ship. Two or three days 
later I was bundled into the train with three 
other boys about my own age, and taken to 
Grimsby, that great centre of the fishing trade, to 
be apprenticed to the fisheries. From the sta- 
tion I was taken to my future master's house, 
and was there bound apprentice to him. He was 
to feed and clothe me, and to treat me well. He 
was also to allow me a little pocket money, — and 
little enough it proved to be. In return, I was to 
serve him for seven years in any way he liked. 

What a change from our old garret ! Here 

i 4 The HARVEST of The SEA 

we were well fed and warmly clothed, for our 
master's wife was a mother to us boys. There 
were twelve of us, all told, learning to be deep 
sea fishermen ; but we were never all in from sea 
at one time. I think my apprenticeship would 
have been happy enough, while I was ashore, 
but one of the bigger boys was a cowardly bully, 
and while I was young and weak, I was one of 
his favourite victims. Many were the torments 
he inflicted on me. One of them rises to my 
memory still, owing to a strange coincidence 
that happened many years after. One day with 
two or three of his gang he had smuggled home 
some cheap and fiery gin from a saloon near 
the dock gates. They meant to make me drunk 
on it, and then to use me as they liked. As I 
refused to drink it, however, they held me on 
the ground, while they poured it down my throat. 
They fairly soaked me in the stuff, making me 
hate it so that it was years before I touched it 
again. What stamped it so on my memory was 
that some years later, when I was skipper of my 
own ship, and God had given me a comfortable 
home of my own, a poor miserable wretch came 
up to me one day in the street, and asked me to 
give him enough to get a drink, " for old times' 


sake." It proved to be my old fellow prentice, a 
broken man already, with the stamp of the drunk- 
ard ail over him. Thank God I was able to do 
better than that for him, though nothing could 
wipe from his slate the record of those evil years. 
But I am anticipating. 

Before long I was shipped as cabin boy on the 
fishing smack Heroine. She was a sixty-ton 
ketch, carrying, like all the others, five hands, 
and was bound for that great submerged sand- 
bank, called the " Dogger." Here we were to 
fish, without seeing the land, for a minimum 
period of two months. Indeed, our owner only 
expected us to return when the ship had to be 
refitted and restocked. What a wild, rough, 
cruel life it was to us boys at sea ! I shudder 
even now as I look back on the first two years 
of it. For if cruelty to children is bad ashore, it 
is ten times worse at sea. A boy could with im- 
punity be done even to death, and more than one 
was, being then dropped over the side, and re- 
ported simply as " washed overboard." I re- 
member one lad well. He certainly was a dirty 
fellow, though probably no one had ever taught 
him better. Like all of us lads, he was supposed 
to keep the cabin clean, as well as to cook the 

16 The HARVEST of The SEA 

food. He was a poor, puny, pale-faced chap when 
he arrived, and he never got over his first sea- 
sickness. So it was pretty hard on the men, who 
were working hard day and night and wanted 
all the food they could get. It so happened too 
our skipper was a hard drinker, and when in his 
cups a dangerous man to cross. At times he 
beat the boy badly, though never without some 
provocation, however slight. That only seemed 
to make him worse, however, and more untidy 
and dirty and careless. At last one day the 
skipper put him below the ballast deck. It 
was pitch dark down there, and the bilge water 
swashing about, wetted and froze the poor little 
chap. He was only down an hour or so at a 
time, but the skipper saw how he feared it, and 
once he left him there all day and night. The 
boy was scarcely alive when they hauled him out, 
and the men were badly frightened and did all 
they could for him, but he died two days later. 
His body was in such a state they dared not take 
it home, so they tied some rocks to his feet and 
threw him into the sea. He was put down on 
the log as " fallen overboard." 

Though we were out of sight of land, we did 
not live exactly alone, for there were ninety to a 


hundred other fishing smacks similar to our own, 
altogether forming a fleet. Our fleet was called 
the " Red- White," from its flag; others were 
called the " Red Cross," the " Short Blues," and 
so on. The men themselves called our fleet the 
" Rashers," because our flag was like a piece of 
bacon. Each fleet had an admiral and a vice- 

As I have been one myself, on and off, these 
twenty years, I will only say that the admiral is 
supposed to be a good man to get the fleet out 
of difficulties, when the weather is bad or other 
danger threatens. He is obliged to know the 
fishing grounds well, and to manoeuvre the vessels 
under his charge so that they will always catch 
plenty of fish. If the fleet does badly, there is 
no end of grumbling, and if it continues, the ad- 
miral will soon be turned out of his billet. Dur- 
ing the day the admiral signals to his fleet by 
flags ; he carries a broad flag to distinguish his 
vessel. At night he uses a code of rockets. 

Every morning one vessel, called the " carrier," 
takes to market all the fish the fleet has caught. 
Nowadays all the carriers are steamers, and 
about six of them are attached to each fleet. 
" Boarding the fish," as we call it, is the most 

1 8 The HARVEST of The SEA 

dangerous part of the work. The fish are packed 
in large boxes, and these are carried to the 
steamer in the small boats. On very rough 
mornings, some of the most thoughtful skippers 
would not make the crew get the small boat out, 
as lives were often lost in the rush and tumble, 
when heavy-laden boats were knocking into one 
another, as they lay wallowing in the trough of 
the sea. Such days meant great chances for the 
more reckless men, for the markets would be 
less well stocked, and therefore the price of fish 
much better. But we lads had to go if we were 
told, and so we used to make the best of it, and 
not let any one see we were afraid. Indeed, to 
do us justice, we soon learnt not to fear any- 
thing, and would go as readily when it almost 
meant death to go, as if it were the finest 
weather. The truth was, we scarcely valued our 
own lives at all, and much less any one else's. 

I shall never forget my first upset. It was one 
New Year's day and Sunday morning, blowing 
hard, and a nasty northeasterly lump heaving in. 
We had just got our fish out and were clearing 
away from the steamer's side, when a cross sea 
rose under our counter. The boat stood on her 


head for a minute, and then fell over, catching 
me like a mouse in a trap. I suddenly found 
that I was under the boat in complete darkness, 
with my arm over one of the seats. I knew I 
must try and get out, or perish in a few minutes ; 
so, although I couldn't swim a yard, I caught 
hold of the gunwale, dragged myself under 
water, and somehow managed to climb up onto 
the keel. Only Archie, our third hand, was 
there. Sam had never got a hold, and was dead 
by then probably. The driving spray kept us 
from seeing to windward, the only way help 
could come ; and already we were nearly dead 
with cold. We were just giving up hope, when 
I caught sight of a smack " heaving to " in the 
wind, right ahead of us, and I knew some one 
was going to try for us. Archie was now lying 
with his head down, and though I kept singing 
out to him, " For God's sake, keep up a little 
longer ! " he let go, and I had to grip him as he 
washed past me. 

That knocked me off, too, and I don't know 
what happened afterwards, till I woke up in the 
steamer's cabin, where some of the men had 
rolled the water out of me and life back into me. 

20 The HARVEST of The SEA 

Poor Archie was dead, though they had picked 
him up, too. They told me I had a grip of his 
jumper like a steel vice. Four men lost their 
lives alongside that morning. But our fish 
fetched a splendid price. 

That was the first time I had to go home with 
the flag half-mast. 



I HAD sailed in the Heroine for two years, 
when she ended her days by catching fire 
one night when all hands were on deck 
hauling the gear. When the gear was to be 
hauled, even the cook boy had to lend a hand ; 
and I, as the youngest and greenest of the crew, 
of course held that post. My job was to go 
down in the dark hold and coil the great warp 
in its pound as it came winding in. As I had to 
catch it above my head, the streaming water 
used to run all over me, and I had to spend 
my hours of sleep more often wet than dry ; for 
we always hauled at sundown and again at mid- 
night. We used a hand capstan, in those days, 
and this meant that the crew had to walk round 
and round the upright, sometimes for three or 
four hours. It was no end of a job on a dirty 
night when there was a coating of ice on the 
rolling decks ; for of course it was pitch dark, 
and we had to step over the rope as we came 
round to it. Even then I have known all the 


22 The HARVEST of The SEA 

rope to be shot out again by a sea striking us, 
just when we thought we had finished. Some- 
times, too, the net itself would bring up fast in 
some rock or old wreck on the bottom. We 
dared not cut it adrift, for it was worth about 
four hundred dollars ; so we would sometimes be 
heaving and tugging, and hauling and dragging 
at it for hours, only after all, perhaps, to save a 
few fathoms of torn rope and net. One calm 
day we actually hauled up, far enough to see the 
spars and yards, an old water-logged wreck that 
must have been on the bottom for years. 

These long hours of extra work used some- 
times to make the men so sleepy, that they would 
go fast asleep as they walked round the cap- 
stan. I remember one night our mate didn't 
answer when the skipper spoke to him ; so the 
skipper took up the hurricane lantern, and flashed 
it in his face. The mate took no notice, but went 
on walking round, and stepping over the rope 
every time he came to it. He was fast asleep all 
the time. 

It was just such a night that we lost the Hero- 
ine. We were dead-beat. The men had all 
been on deck for some hours, when smoke came 
blowing forrard from the companion hatch. The 


skipper rushed aft and tried to get below, but 
couldn't face the heat and smoke. He then took 
the axe, and tried to cut a hole through the 
decks, so as to heave water down that way. But 
it was all no good, and in a little while we had 
to take to the boat, losing every article of cloth- 
ing, and everything else we possessed. It was 
terribly cold tossing about, wet as I was, in that 
boat in the dark. For it was full two hours be- 
fore we managed to make a vessel with her gear 
down, and get aboard. The old Heroine made a 
noble show as she flared up. She burnt almost 
to the water-line before she sank, going down 
head first with a fearful plunge. The worst of 
the business, as far as I was concerned, was that 
I was placed in a new ship under a strange skip- 
per. For the " old man," as we called him (he 
was about thirty-five), had been not unkind to 
us. He had " kiddies " of his own on the shore, 
and though he went now and again to the grog- 
ship, he generally got clear of her before dark. 
I think it must have been his wife that kept him 
straight. He certainly seemed to care about her, 
and we boys loved her, for she always had a kind 
welcome for us. We used to be allowed to go 
down to the house, and more than one supper 

24 The HARVEST of The SEA 

she gave us behind the " old man's " back, which 
kept me, at least, from many a worse place. 
She was religious, too, and went to a chapel down 
near the fish-dock. But I think I may say that 
I had in those days never heard the name of 
Christ, unless it were in an oath. Our master 
had no leanings that way — perhaps a good thing, 
as his life wouldn't have borne him out. There 
was no religion at sea. 

I had grown into a good strong lad by then, 
and having from infancy had to fight all my own 
battles, I was able now to hold my own pretty 
well with any one. Well it was for me that it 
was so. For now I was to sail on a ship where 
I was to be with a drunken skipper, fearless alike 
of God or man. The life at sea had been, so 
far, the best that I had known, for at least I had 
always had enough to eat and drink. Though I 
know now what dangers I was passing through, 
I did not then regret having been sent to the 

I shipped this time as " fourth hand." The 
vessel's name was the Ocean's Pride. The cook, 
like myself, was a town waif sent to the fisheries 
as an apprentice. The skipper had once been 
admiral of our fleet, but had been turned out by 



the owners for the losses that some of his drunken 
escapades had caused them. On one occasion 
he had sailed his fleet in under the little island of 
Heligoland. The set of men that were always 
aboard him at sea, went ashore to get liquor. 
The island had no end of opportunities for getting 
what they wanted. Soon, however, their senses 
and their money began to leave them, and the 
islanders wanted to get rid of them. It was no 
easy task, however. For as soon as they tried it 
on, the men showed fight, and very soon had the 
whole island at their mercy. They did what 
they liked then with the saloons, wallowing in 
drink, for the next two days ; then we all cleared 
ofT to sea again. After that, only the crew of a 
single fishing vessel was allowed to land at one 
time. The admiral's last spree was to take the 
whole fleet right into the territorial waters under 
the coast of Holland, so that his gang again 
might go ashore and get grog. Not only were 
some of the vessels seized and towed into port 
for fishing in illegal waters, but some of the skip- 
pers stayed so long ashore that their mates went 
off and took their vessels home, leaving the skip- 
pers to get home as best they could, by passenger 
steamers or otherwise. 

26 The HARVEST of The SEA 

I need not say that all on board the smack were 
afraid of the " skipper," and his cruelty to the lit- 
tle cook, Charlie, was such that on our first time 
home, just as we were getting to sea again we 
found he had bolted and was nowhere to be 
found. His work fell on my shoulders, and 
though I did my best to give no cause for anger- 
ing the skipper, many a blow and many a bucket 
of cold water were my portion before I turned 
in at night. Several times he made me stay on 
deck all night, when it was my time to be turned 
in, and that made him all the crankier the next 
day, because I was then unfit to do my work. 
When the voyage was up and we reached home, 
we found that his master had had Charlie sent to 
prison for breaking the apprenticeship laws, and 
when we next went to sea the poor lad was led 
down and put on board, so that he had no chance 
to escape. As for me, I should have escaped 
too, only I knew it was no good. I was half 
afraid the skipper meant to kill Charlie, and I 
had some sort of hope that I might be of use to 
him. It was no good going and telling our 
master about it : he would only have told the 
skipper, for he never would listen to anything 
against his skippers, so long as they did well 


with fish. And our skipper was at least a good 
fisherman in that respect, for he would carry a 
whole sail when all the rest of the fleet had two 
reefs down, and so he managed to drag his net 
faster and further perhaps. Anyhow, there was 
nothing to say in that respect, as we made " good 

The lust for money is as cruel as the craving 
for drink. One of the owners, I was told, actu- 
ally threatened to sack his skipper, because he 
broke his fishing voyage to bring home a crew 
of unfortunate Dutchmen, that he had taken 
off a sinking schooner. There was a time, in 
Grimsby, when the prentice lads in the winter 
months spent more time in jail for deserting, 
than they did at sea. 

When we left, the skipper came aboard drunk, 
with a " list aport," a thing we used to think 
meant bad luck. Once aboard, both the skipper 
and mate went below, and left us three young- 
sters to manage as best we could. After three 
days, during which we had not seen either of 
them on deck, we fell in with our fleet, and we 
had to go below and tell them so. Their liquor 
was gone now, and all they thought of was, " Is 
there a grog-ship with them ? " 

28 The HARVEST of The SEA 

In those days there was always a vessel, or 
perhaps more than one, with every large fleet, 
selling liquor. She did no fishing, but just 
bought — or stole — everything she could, in re- 
turn for fiery schnapps or adulterated brandies. 
The vessels were called " copers." We called 
them " Hells," and their liquor " chained light- 
ning." They generally sailed from some port 
across the North Sea, where alcoholic liquors 
and tobacco are cheap. 



THE scenes that used to take place on 
the grog-ships are better imagined than 
described. Those that frequented them 
used to act more like devils than men to one 
another and to us boys. Thus I remember Skip- 
per Wakeman coming by his death. A number 
of the men were making an all-night spree of it, 
and some time before morning fell to quarrelling 
amongst themselves. One of them seized the 
lamp swinging in the coper's cabin and hurled 
it at Wakeman. The lamp broke, and the par- 
affin soaked into his woollen jersey, and in an 
instant he was a mass of flames. In his agony 
he rushed up the cabin stairs. For one moment 
he danced about on deck — an awful sight that 
none that saw it will ever forget ; then, rushing 
to the side, he flung himself into the water. I 
need hardly say none of his companions was in 
a condition to try and save him. And so the 
poor fellow went out into Eternity. In some 


3© The HARVEST of The SEA 

such way many a good man lost his life in my 
early days. 

Hateful as these ships were to me, however, 
I was eager enough to see one now, for both 
skipper and mate would at least be off board for 
a short while, and Charlie and I could forget our 

The fleet was fishing at this time on the rising 
ground near the coast of Denmark. They were 
all doing well, and there was no lack of grog- 
vessels about, so we soon saw the backs of our 
chief officers. The mate came aboard next day, 
and did not leave us again, for without him we 
could not have handled the ship and done the 
fishing. But the skipper we hardly saw again 
for a fortnight, except when he came off to get 
some fish to sell for grog, or later when he sold 
our spare gear, some of the sails, and a quantity 
of the ship's provisions. He couldn't possibly 
have drunk all he paid for, but he was in a half- 
dazed condition all the time, and I don't think he 
knew just what he was doing. 

One day, at sundown, we saw a smack's boat 
adrift on the ocean, apparently with no one in 
her, so we bore down to pick her up. Picture 
our surprise when we found our own skipper 


stretched out in the bottom in a drunken sleep ! 
When he came to himself, next day, he found he 
had been dumped in and cut adrift, as there was 
nothing more to be got out of him. 

The question now was what to do with our 
vessel. We must go home for fresh supplies, or 
get them from our comrades in other vessels. 
The first the skipper did not dare to do, for fear 
of arrest ; the second he was either too proud to 
do, or too maddened to think of, for there is no 
doubt he would have got all he wanted. But in 
his disordered state of mind, all he thought of 
was to lose the ship, and he swore, over and over 
again, that she should never more see Great 

We took no more notice of this than we did 
of any other of his drunken oaths. But the same 
night, when the admiral signalled to shoot the 
nets, the skipper put the helm hard up, and we 
left the fleet with a fair wind for home. It was 
late the following night, when the skipper him- 
self was at the wheel and had let all hands go 
below, that we were almost thrown out of our 
bunks by the smack suddenly running up on a 
reef. Breaking seas hit the vessel as she lay, 
driving her up farther and farther on the rocks, 

32 The HARVEST of The SEA 

and we soon saw that she must go to pieces. 
The skipper was like a fiend, yelling and shout- 
ing in delirious joy. But his mad triumph was 
short-lived, for a curling sea coming in over the 
rail swept him overboard, and his laughter was 
lost in the noise of the sea, and the darkness. 
All the sailor qualities of the mate now came 
into play. He made us lash spars together to 
form a raft, himself directing matters as if he had 
been in the dock at home. 

Right above us towered the gleaming light 
that marked the reef, which we now knew to be 
Borkum Reef, off the north coast of Holland. In 
spite of the furious seas, the stout old Ocean's 
Pride held together long enough to let us finish 
our work, and then we were all lashed on. In 
God's mercy our lives were thus spared, and the 
drink demon cheated of further victims. 

We were sent home by the British consul as 
" shipwrecked mariners." But the story leaked 
out in time to save the owner from claiming the 
insurance, the skipper having long been hall- 
marked as unfit to trust a vessel to. Thus poor 
Charlie was saved from his tormentor, and was 
partly avenged on a money-blinded master. 



I DO not intend to trouble you with all my 
own story : wearisome enough it would 
prove to you, I fear ; but I want to put down 
just those incidents that will show what the deep 
sea men were and are. Alas, I was none too 
good a specimen ! Having no one to teach me 
better, I fell into evil ways. What saved me 
more than anything else, perhaps, was a pride in 
my own manhood and strength, and a determi- 
nation to rise if I could. Like most young fish- 
ermen, I soon began to " walk out " with a girl, 
— one who now for twenty-five years has been 
the partner of my joys and sorrows. A mighty 
help she proved to me then, for she promised to 
become my wife as soon as I had a vessel of my 
own, but not before, and not then either, unless 
I kept clear of drink and bad ways. How many 
a young fellow have I seen rush into marriage 
without ever recognizing its responsibilities ! It 
has been the girl's own fault, often enough, that 
she has not kept the love of her sailor husband, 


34 The HARVEST of The SEA 

because from the first she has never taught him 
rightly to respect her. 

During these years I was in the good smack 
Osprey, with Skipper " Darkie Jim," with whom 
I rose to be mate. He was a great, powerful 
fellow, as hard as iron, yet as gentle as he was 
strong, with a hearty way with him that made us 
all cheer up, however black things might look. 
He was a bit reckless at times, though. Once I 
saw him drive his fist straight through the panels 
of the cabin door, just because a number of skip- 
pers, who were there to share some fresh mutton 
he had received from home, said he couldn't do 
it. On another occasion I saw him catch by the 
seat of his trousers and the scruff of his neck, a 
man who had gone too far in teasing him, lift 
him above his own head, and throw him over 
into the sea as he might have tossed a kitten. It 
was a fine day, and we all set to work and fished 
him out again ; but he drank more water in those 
few moments than he had drunk for many a long 

Darkie Jim's irrepressible spirits led him into 
innumerable mad frolics, but he was far too brave 
to be a bully, and our crew almost worshipped 
him. True, he had little religion in the early 


days, but he had a great and loyal love for his 
" Old Dutcheye," as he called his wife, and for 
his children, who were affectionately referred to 
as " Toe-biters." 

On one occasion our fleet was fishing on the 
shallow ground that stretches away off the " Sylt." 
Fish were plentiful then on the sandy ground 
there, but it was a big risk for so many vessels to 
go so far back in shallow water in a bight like 
that. We were in all a hundred and thirty sail, yet 
we had such complete trust in the capability of 
our admiral, and were so keen on getting more 
fish than any one else, that in we all went. Our 
skipper ventured in the farthest of all, as he al- 
ways did, without thought of consequences. We 
made a big haul that day, right in sight of the 
land. At sundown the wind was still off shore, 
and only a nice fresh fishing breeze at that. So 
the admiral showed his lights for a first night haul 
over the same ground, and we crept in even nearer 
under the shore. The wind freshened before 
midnight into a two-reef breeze, and some of the 
more cautious men hauled their nets and made a 
good offing for themselves. Not so our skip- 
per. He was cheerily singing away in one of his 
reckless moods, and the little Osprey went flying 

36 The HARVEST of The SEA 

along, her lea rail almost under water, but with 
never an inch of canvas shortened, for she was 
gathering the haddocks up into her net in a way 
that meant more comforts for the " Toe-biters." 

Suddenly the wind chopped right round onto 
the land. Rockets at once flashed up into the 
sky, telling the fleet to haul at once, and make 
for the open. The leemost vessels were ten 
miles from the admiral, however, and long before 
they got their nets on board a very nasty sea 
was running. For it took us a long while to 
haul, in those days, and a sea makes very quickly 
in shallow water. Our big catch now nearly 
proved our ruin, for Darkie Jim never lost a had- 
dock that he could possibly save, and it took us 
full two hours to heave nearly three tons of fish 
aboard. There were no lights in sight when we 
started to beat to windward, for we learnt after- 
wards that the skippers of no less than forty 
vessels had chopped away their valuable gear to 
save time, and perhaps their vessels and crews. 
Not so " Darkie Jim " : he wasn't built that way. 
But that is the only reason that, in spite of his 
gigantic strength and coolness, we were the last 
vessel to start into the wind's eye that night. 
After what seemed to me ages, we were at last 


all ready, and the bow-line was loosed, and away 
tore our staunch little craft. 

It was pitch dark now, and we could neither 
see when we must tack nor tell if we were gain- 
ing or losing ground. To help the vessel do 
herself justice in that confined space, the skipper 
held on each way, till even down below we could 
hear the breakers on the land roaring above the 
howling of the storm. Having ordered all hands 
below, the skipper himself remained on deck, 
lashed to the wheel. Only at the moment we 
were head on to sea, at the tacks, were we allowed 
to rush forward and change over the sails. We 
hadn't shortened an inch of canvas, and now we 
could not if we wished to. Luckily our topsails 
had blown to rags and eased us a little, for the 
wind kept freshening. Of course we had all 
the driving power we could handle, and the only 
marvel was that none of the huge seas hit us, or 
came aboard. How many hundreds must just 
have missed us, I don't know. Now and again 
the tail end of a spiteful one that had missed us 
by not more than a yard or so, would drop a ton 
of water over our rail as it swung by, wash down 
the cabin stairway, and give us a foot of water 
on the floor to show us what it could have done, 

38 The HARVEST of The SEA 

if only it had hit us fair and square. But these 
things only served to make the skipper more 
cheery, and as he sang out, " All right below, 
boys ? " he always added one of his quaint bits 
of talk to the sea, chaffing it as if it was alive 
and could understand him. 

Hour after hour went by, the skipper still at 
the wheel, nursing the ship he loved so as to save 
every inch of ground, and dodging the seas 
rather by instinct than by sight, for morning 
seemed to be endlessly delayed. Like all good 
things, however, it came to those who waited, 
and we could make out that owing to the neces- 
sity of nursing the ship from the breaking seas, 
we had put very little distance yet between us 
and the breakers under our lea. The skipper 
seemed as fresh as paint still, prattling to the 
ship as if it were one of his own " Toe-biters," 
encouraging her and praising her whenever she 
escaped a sea by a hair's breadth. 

Suddenly he sang out, " Come and take the 
wheel, Bill. There is some poor devil to wind'ard 
clean swept. I'll go aloft and try to make him 

I was at the wheel in a second, for you may be 
sure no one had his boots off that night. The 


skipper went aloft, and as we rose and fell over 
the seas, I could see him straining his eyes through 
the driving spume. At last he came aft again, 
clawing his way, like a great crab, by the life- 
line he had rigged. 

" It's the Sarah and Anne" he roared, " She's 
clean swep*. The men are still on deck, and 
they've got a bit o' buntin' on the mast stump. 
Skipper Jack's got kids ashore. We must make 
a try for them." 

" You don't mean you are going to try and 
get the boat out, do you ? " 

" Here, take the wheel," he fairly shouted at 
me. " There's no time to waste. Don't leave 
the wheel, yourself, Bill, and for God's sake watch 
her. I'll go below and get some one to come 
with me. All hands on deck ! " he bawled, and 
almost as soon as he spoke the three others came 
tumbling up from below. 

" What ? get the boat out in a sea like this ? 
Why, there ain't no chance whatever." 

We were all certain of that, and thought it 
simply madness to suggest it. 

" I'd go with you anywheres, skipper," said 
Tom, our third hand, " if there was the leastest 
scrap of a chance. But a life-boat wouldn't live 

4 o The HARVEST of The SEA 

in that sea, and besides we could never get hel 
out anyhow." 

" Forrard and get the gripes loose," he shouted. 
" Bill, old lad, heave her to, and have an eye to 
the boat as long as you can. Take the ship 
home if I don't come back. I'll go alone, if no 
one will come." 

In next to no time the boat was on the rail, 
and almost as quickly she was flying down the 
deck before a lumping sea, her bilge stove in as 
she struck the capstan with a heavy thud. 

" Quick, boys ! that old paraffin tin and some 
spun-yarn," he shouted ; and almost before we 
knew it, she was on the rail again, a great patch 
of tin, oakum, canvas and tarry spun-yarn over 
the hole. 

" Now ! " he roared ; and then a sea shot her 
out like an arrow, taut to the end of the stout 
bass painter, and in a moment she was hammer- 
ing into our lea quarter and the skipper was in, 
his jack-knife open in his teeth ; and the next, the 
painter cut, he was only a speck visible as his 
boat rose on the crest of a larger wave than 
usual. But not before Tom had tumbled into 
the boat with him. 

" I didn't expect to see you any more, Bill," 


he told me afterwards, " but I couldn't stay and 
see the old man go alone." 

The very first sea they met swept away both 
their oars like so much matchwood, and all Tom 
can remember is that he and the skipper set to 
work bailing for their lives with their sou' westers, 
for the same sea had more than half filled the 
boat. Tom never thought a moment about the 
Sarah and Anne. He never had thought they 
had any chance of reaching her, anyhow, so he 
forgot all about everything but getting the water 
out, till suddenly a sea flung them alongside 
something like a sunken rock. Somehow the 
water in the bottom of the boat was alive with 
half a dozen men, and then once more they 
were clear again, and working away at the water 
as before. You must know we never row our 
small boats to windward, even when boarding 
fish in fine weather : we always run down to them 
after they have drifted past the fish carrier, and 
pick them up. 

Though I had sent our deckie to the cross-trees 
the moment the boat left, we had lost sight of 
both her and the wreck almost immediately, and 
had seen nothing since. What should I do ? 
Run to leeward on a fool's errand and so lose all 

42 The HARVEST of The SEA 

the ground we had fought so hard for all night, 
or accept the inevitable and let the story of one 
more fisherman's self-sacrifice be forgotten, ex- 
cept in the desolate little home to which we could 
carry nothing but a flag half-mast ? " Mind you 
take her home safe if you can," had been almost 
the skipper's last words. For the ship was his 
own, the one result of his life's labours, and all 
that there would be left to provide for his loved 
ones. Our cook lad, only fifteen years of age, 
was eager to risk everything for the skipper's 
life ; for the man had been a father to him. It 
looked like running into the very gates of hell, 
as we looked at the mass of white foam behind 
us, and the pitiless headlands on each side of us, 
now plainly visible. We seemed caught like a 
rat in a trap. 

Thank God we tried it. While I sent the lad for- 
ward to loose the sheets, I was watching a chance 
to let her pay off without being caught in the 
trough of the sea. At last we were round, and on 
we flew before the gale, till it seemed certain that 
to go any further meant striking the sands. I 
was about to " heave to " again and have one more 
struggle to save the ship, when the deckie began 
waving frantically over our starboard bow. He 


swung down the throat halyards in half a moment, 
and as I wrenched at the tiller lanyards with 
every ounce of strength I had, to give her a port 
helm, I heard him yelling, " The boat ! the boat ! " 
He ran forward with the log line, and stood 
waiting as the good old Osprey shot up into 
the wind once more. There was suddenly a loud 
crash. It was the boat pounding itself to pieces 
against our counter ; and then I saw eight figures 
sprawling on our deck. 

I have often noticed, when the storm seems to 
have done its worst and has been beaten, it sud- 
denly goes down. So it was on this occasion. 
A very slight change in the wind's direction gave 
us just what we needed, so that on our very next 
tack we were able to head up, till we cleared the 
Southern Head, and forty-eight hours later we 
were abreast of dear Old Flamborough light. 

Such things were done, and soon forgotten, by 
men that neither expected nor received reward 
or praise for their noble deeds. Their only spur 
was the generous impulse of their own big hearts, 
and their real mead the fact that they proved 
themselves worthy of the traditions of the sailor. 




THOUGH the purpose of this story does 
not involve Skipper Darkie Jim any 
further — since I left soon after to take 
charge of my first vessel, the Silver Spray — yet I 
must tell how the greedy sea at length claimed 
him too as its victim. This chapter of the ever- 
lengthening tale of tribute included in the " price 
of fish," I had from the lips of the deckie, 
" Ernie," who was still with him at the time. It 
was on the 14th of October, two years later. 
The fleet was away down North, fishing well 
below the " tail end o' the Dogger." It had 
been dark and dirty all day, and though we car- 
ried no barometer, we knew we were in for 
something worse than usual. We were sure of 
it, when at sundown the admiral signalled for 
the fleet to heave to on the starboard tack, and 
not to put out the nets for fishing. 

There was a dead calm for a few minutes ; I 
had just gone below at six o'clock for a mug of 



tea. We had reefed the Silver Spray down all 
snug, clewed down the hatches, and made all 
ready, lashing the helm and hauling the bowline 
well home on our storm staysail. As I took up 
my mug, a clap of thunder boomed out over- 
head, and a splatter or two of rain fell on deck. 
Then there was a rustle, increasing to a roar, and 
a whole gale of wind hit the ship like a sledge- 
hammer. Every timber in her shivered like an 
aspen, as she fell over almost on her beam ends, 
flinging every movable thing into the lee bunks. 
Then she seemed to be in doubt for a moment 
what to do, but at last slowly righted herself, and 
went staggering away like a drunken man. It 
was dark as ink, but as our vessels had all put 
good sea room between one another, there was 
nothing to do now but to set the watch and turn 
in and sleep as usual, for it is always well in a 
fisherman's life to put in sleep when you get a 
chance : more than once have I nearly died from 
the need of a nap. 

That night I happened to go on deck at mid- 
night to see that all was right, when suddenly I 
noticed a green light now and again bobbing up 
under our lee quarter. I knew at once that there 
was some one coming the opposite way. The 

46 The HARVEST of The SEA 

wind was so heavy, and the driving spray so 
cold, it was almost impossible to make anything 
out ; but I guessed at once it was another fleet 
crossing through us on the other tack. To un- 
derstand what this meant on such a night, you 
must understand that no one is steering any of 
the vessels. It would be folly to attempt to do 
so, for we have such a low free-board that a sea 
may sweep the deck at any moment, and as a 
matter of fact we always lash the tiller hard-a-lee, 
and the vessel keeps on dodging up head to sea 
of herself, while the watchman stands or crouches 
in the companion hatch, ready to jump below at 
a moment's notice. 

So there was nothing to be done, and our one 
hundred and thirty vessels had to thread their 
way through over a hundred coming the oppo- 
site way, and just take their chance of going free 
or being suddenly hurled into eternity. Twice 
we were within an ace of being cut down, and 
twice we missed another poor fellow by a hair's 
breadth. It sent a queer kind of feeling through 
you, as all of a sudden you saw death, in the 
form of a huge black phantom with great red 
and green eyes, loom up out of that Egyptian 
darkness, flit past within a few feet of you, and 






i— i 





as suddenly disappear into the night again. 
Alas, they did not all fare as well as we did, and 
many a brave soul went out into the darkness 
that night. 

When at length daylight came, things were no 
better, for the wind kept veering against us, and 
was slowly but surely driving the fleet into the 
breakers of the shallow water on the bank. 
Some of the vessels tried to spread more canvas 
to weather the shoals, or to gather way enough 
to tack ; but canvas went like paper in that furi- 
ous storm, and by midday it was evident we 
should have to try and cross the shoals. It had 
not gone twelve before the boom of the admiral's 
gun-rockets told the fleet that the best thing to 
do was to hard up and try to run over the break- 
ers into the quieter and deeper water on the south 
side the bank. None of us but knew that these 
rockets sounded the death knell for some of us ; 
for the mountainous seas rise perpendicularly, 
and fall over, crushing with their awful weight 
anything that may come in their way. There 
were five fathoms of water in the shallowest place, 
however, and there was not much danger of 
actually striking bottom. As I write I can live 
over again that half-hour, when we hung on 

48 The HARVEST of The SEA 

and hung on to the last moment, before going 
below to snatch what might be our last 
meal, in silence. The mate and I then lashed 
ourselves to the wheel, while the third and fourth 
hands let go the sheets, and then ran back to the 
companion to wait events. The little Silver 
Spray paid off like a bird, shipped not one drop 
of water as she turned, and almost before we 
knew it, was scudding in ferocious leaps and 
bounds over mountains and troughs, till in less 
than an hour, to our own amazement, we found 
ourselves in comparative safety under the shelter 
of the bank. 

Not so, however, the gallant Osprey. Ernie 
told me that during the first half-hour, they saw 
two smacks disappear close to them. One was 
so close that they saw her put her bowsprit right 
under water, stand for a moment on end, and 
then disappear with all on board. Indeed, so 
close were they to her, that they ran right over 
the top of her wreckage. But their own turn 
came at last. Just as he thought they were 
reaching the deeper water, he heard Skipper Jim, 
who had been working like a giant at the wheel 
to keep the vessel from yawing, shout, " Look 
out ! Water ! " He just had time to see a 


mountain falling on them, and then himself fell 
head over heels down the stairway. Over and 
over the Osprey seemed to go, everything ap- 
parently being smashed to atoms. The very 
ballast broke through the flooring and fell 
on Ernie, knocking most of the life out of him, 
while tons of water rushed below sweeping every- 
thing fore and aft in a heap. But a fisherman 
fights to the end for his life, and as the water in 
the cabin, which more than half filled it, would 
have drowned him in a few minutes if he re- 
mained below, he had to try and crawl up on 

Up, did I say ? Yes, up — for somehow the 
smack was still keel down. It was no easy mat- 
ter to get on deck, for the stairs were broken, 
and the companion was gone. But the ruin be- 
low was nothing to the wilderness on deck. Not 
a stick was left standing abaft the stump of the 
mainmast. Mizzen, bulwarks, stanchions, hatches, 
capstan, wheel and trawl beam had all gone, and 
with them every vestige of the crew. Even the 
two boys, who had been with Ernie in the hatch, 
had gone with it. Marvellous to relate, as if by 
the special intervention of Providence on his be- 
half, the boat was still lashed in place by her stout 

5 o The HARVEST of The SEA 

chain gripes. For the sea had struck the Osprey 
crosswise and partly missed her bows. True, 
some loose piece of wreckage had struck her, and 
badly cracked the boat's bilge. But, though her 
oars also were gone, Ernie saw here his only pos- 
sible refuge. Getting to her with difficulty, he 
managed to stuff the crack with strips from his 
shirt. Then, however, it still seemed that all 
chance was gone, for he was quite unable alone 
to get her over the side. Hastily, however, he 
gathered everything he could find into her, 
climbed in, cut the lashings of the gripes, and 
waited for the end. 

It was evident the Osprey could not keep afloat 
many minutes. She was already almost level 
with the water, which Ernie had noticed was 
much quieter. As a matter of fact, they must 
have been already well across the bank. He said 
it seemed to him years that he sat there, wonder- 
ing what drowning felt like, but without any fear 
of it. Suddenly the unexpected happened. A 
rather heavier swell washed sullenly over the 
half submerged deck, and lifting the boat carried 
it away, right through where the rail and bul- 
warks had once stood. Ernie realized that he 
was safe from being sucked down, when the 


Osprey should make her last obeisance to the 
waves. Hastily he strung together everything 
he had available that would float, and soon had a 
fair sea anchor out, his little craft riding head to 
sea, and making good weather of it. One more 
streak of luck (or shall we say overruling of 
Providence ?) : Ernie and his tiny craft were 
sighted and picked up before night by a vessel 
that, like our own, had safely crossed the bank. 

It was a shattered remnant of a fleet that 
crowded into the Humber a few days later, and 
a terrible sight that met us as one by one the 
cripples straggled home. For twenty-five smacks 
were missing with all hands, and two hundred 
and seventy-two men had perished in one night, 
leaving a hundred widows to mourn their loss. 

This also is the price of fish. 



ODD as it may seem, though I was a skip- 
per in charge of a vessel, my apprentice- 
ship had still another year to run. And 
as every member of the crew was an apprentice 
also, it was a cheap ship to its owner, for none 
of us got regular pay, but only what he liked to 
give us, according to our articles. Another of 
the apprentices — my great chum, all these years 
— Tom Blake, was also a skipper, and so we al- 
ways used to arrange to sail together and make 
our times at home tally, also. We used to be 
called the " Twins." When you saw one of us, 
you saw the other. Indeed, Tom was already 
engaged to my girl's sister, and when we got our 
papers back and were free to work for ourselves, 
we were both married on the same day. So we 
settled to live side by side in Grimsby, so that 
our wives should be company for one another 
when we were away at sea. 

It was the custom then for the more pushing 


The COMING of The GOSPEL 53 

men to mortgage a vessel from their owners, and 
call it their own, working it just as if it was. The 
owners supplied them with all they needed and 
charged them with it. As security they held the 
ship's papers, and stopped so much of the earn- 
ings as they liked, each year, to pay off the inter- 
est and a part of the capital. Thus they had no 
risk if a vessel didn't pay, for they foreclosed, 
and only the tradesmen weren't paid. The 
owner, too, insured against the vessel's being lost. 
If she did well, I know to my cost, my owner at 
least did not suffer. Not one in a hundred of 
the men who were thus working out their ships 
ever got to own them, for if it seemed that the 
owner was going to lose control of one, it was 
easy for him to insist on some new expense, such 
as new decks, or a new suit of sails. The ad- 
miral, as he earned more than the rest, had more 
chance. But as a rule when any man did get to 
own his ship, it was too old to be of any value. 
It was a fine thing, though, to be able to say the 
boat was one's own ; at least we used to think it 
so. It made you seem more independent, though 
you really were never your own master ; for you 
had to drag on, and drag on, year after year, 
while only the owner made anything out of it. 

54 The HARVEST of The SEA 

So Tom and I, now that we were free, each 
" owned " his own vessel. I had the Wild Wave 
and Tom had the Rover. They were charged to 
us at $8,000 and $7,000 respectively. 

Those were rollicking days for us young fel- 
lows. Many a spree we had together; and to 
me Tom always seemed the life of the party, as 
he certainly was the leader on every occasion. 
Once the herring-men had been having great 
trouble with the Dutchmen, who used to sail 
along in the dark with a four-bladed knife hang- 
ing over their bow, called a " devil." By cutting 
the nets adrift, they did great damage and caused 
great loss. So one day, when we sighted a large 
Dutch drift-net vessel, Tom dressed himself up in 
an old policeman's uniform and went aboard. 
He told the skipper he was a customs-house offi- 
cer, and had come to seize him for illegal fishing. 
Somehow he got the fellow properly frightened, 
and we had the fun of seeing the Dutchman 
following in Tom's wake all day, as if he were a 
prisoner of war. Eventually he made the fellow 
pay up some schnapps and all the tobacco and 
cigars he had aboard, in order that Tom should 
not say any more about it. 

Another time we were both adrift from the 

The COMING of The GOSPEL 55 

fleet, and having a lot of fish on deck that we 
couldn't keep, we ran into Ostend to sell it. 
There was a lot of ill-feeling between the Dutch- 
men and our " single boaters," or men who fish 
apart from the fleets, for by running their fish 
into the Dutch ports, they lowered the price of 
Dutch fish. The morning that we came in, a 
great crowd of them collected on the quay and 
began stoning our vessels. A lot of their little 
soldiers were sent down to keep the peace, but 
the crowd nearly drove them into the water. 
Meanwhile Tom had collected his crew and made 
them put on their oil-frocks and sou'westers, to 
protect them from the stones, and black their 
faces ; then taking their belts, buckle-end out, 
they sallied forth and drove a path through the 
whole lot, till they reached the fish-market. 
There they secured creels to put the fish in, and 
came back in triumph. They soon had their 
fish sold then, and ours too ; and we got to sea 
again as quick as we could, having made a good 
venture by the visit. Indeed, nothing seemed to 
go wrong with us, and our luck became the talk 
of the fleet — though I am convinced a man makes 
his own luck, and the man who haunts the grog- 
shops is the one that complains the most of ill-luck. 

5 6 the HARVEST of The SEA 

News soon gets about, even at sea, and before 
long the owners were talking about my success. 
I hadn't heard of this, so I was mighty surprised, 
one time home, when I wasn't yet twenty-five 
years old, to get a letter from the owners offer- 
ing me the Flags. My, but it was a proud 
moment when I first hoisted the broad flag of 
the Red- White fleet on my topmast stay, and 
when I saw my wife and Tom's on the pier head, 
waving to us, as we first put to sea with an ad- 
miral's sign of office floating aloft ! 

Every morning when it was possible to board 
fish, the carrier had to come to the admiral for 
orders, and we generally used to hold a skippers' 
meeting in the cabin to discuss the movements 
of the fish and how we should be likely to do 
the best with them. It sent quite a queer feeling 
through me as I sat there and told men who had 
been skippers while I was still in that old Lon- 
don garret, what they must do, and how I in- 
tended to take the fleet; for as long as I was 
admiral, I always had my way. 

It was after one of these meetings one fine 
morning, when I had just come on deck, that I 
noticed a vessel ahead of us flying a red, white 
and blue flag, with a lot of letters on it. I am 

The COMING of The GOSPEL 57 

ashamed to say I could not read them, so I 
called Tom and asked him what the letters spelt. 
There were three lines, and they ran like this : 


Trust Christ More 


God is Love 

"What's little Billy up to now?" I said. 
" What's he got to do with religion out here ? 
I thought that was for the women-folk and those 
that stayed home." 

" I don't know," said Tom. " Come along. 
Let's go and pay him a visit." 

I was half afraid to go with Tom. I thought 
he would be sure to be up to some of his monkey 
tricks again, and little Billy Cullington was a 
splendid fellow, a favourite with every one ; and 
after all it was no business of ours, if he had 
turned religious. However, there never was any 
saying " No," when Tom had made up his mind 
one should say " Yes." So along we went, half 

5 8 The HARVEST of The SEA 

expecting to find Billy with a face as long as a 
yard measure, and for all we knew a big pair of 
black gloves. We found him, however, as merry 
as a cricket, and all Tom's chaff and fooling 
couldn't put him out of temper. He told us he 
was a Christian now, had been " converted," and 
didn't intend to fish any more on Sundays, but 
was going to try and " keep prayers aboard, in- 

" Well, Billy," I said, " that may suit you all 
right, if you have a mind for it, but I guess the 
owners will want fish and not prayers." 

The little chap made us stay to dinner, and as 
he was just from home and had supplies of 
" fresh," we made no objection. As we went 
away, though, Tom couldn't resist the fun of 
cutting away the leg of fresh mutton which was 
hanging over the stern, and giving a "mutton 
party " next day. He invited Billy also, not of 
course telling him where the mutton came from, 
but just to do his very best to tease the little 
chap into losing his temper. But it was all no 
good. Billy held his own all right, and when 
Sunday came and I gave the fleet the signal to 
" down trawl," blessed if little Billy didn't keep 
his foresail a' weather, and his precious " Bethel " 

The COMING of The GOSPEL 59 

flag a-flying for prayers, just as if he was admiral 
on his own account. 

It was soon the gossip of the whole fleet, and 
many were the bets on how long he would stick 
to it, what the owners would say, etc., though on 
the last point we were all pretty well agreed. 



WELL, Billy did extra well that trip. I 
think that even the owners must have 
had a little superstition about it at 
first, for though of course his ship had no Sun- 
day fish notes, and some of the grog-lovers had 
taken good care the owners should know how 
they were being robbed, they said never a word 
to Billy about it. So he came to sea again 
more determined than before, and with his old 
" Bethel " flag as high as ever. I noticed now 
and again, what a lot of visits Tom was begin- 
ning to pay him, and somehow Billy seemed to 
be getting quite an influence over him. 

One glorious morning on the next trip, when 
there wasn't a breath of wind to help the fleet 
make a day haul, I dropped aboard Tom early in 
the day, and asked him to come and spend the 
day with me on the old coper. For the first 
time in his life he wouldn't come with me, and at 
last I got it out of him that he had promised his 



wife, Annie, that he wouldn't go to the grog-ship 
any more. 

" Fact is, I'm tee-total, Bill," he said. 

" Come along — that won't keep you from a bit 
of fun. When did you ever see me take too 
much ? " I answered. 

"No, no, Bill; it isn't that. I don't know 
what's come over me, but I can't come, old lad. 
I really can't." 

It made me a bit angry, that did. So I went 
off, and for the first and last time in my life 
stayed aboard one of those hells, till the thirst 
from its aniseeded brandy had made a fool of me. 
It was " Just von leedle drop," at first. But that 
was a drop that made you need two more after 

I know it made Tom feel down a bit, too, for 
like the good genius that he always was to me, 
he was aboard at daybreak next morning, and 
just made me come off and spend the day on the 
Rover. As he told me afterwards, a packet of 
good things from home came off by the cutter 
that very night, and he said he believed it was 
" sent " there on purpose to help him ; that by 
himself he felt he didn't know what to do. 

I pretty well guessed how things were working, 

62 The HARVEST of The SEA 

and wasn't surprised to hear Tom had been to 
chapel with his wife, last time home, though he 
had said nothing to me about it. I knew he had 
never been inside a place of worship before, ex- 
cept when he was married. 

Soon after this things took a turn with Billy. 
We all somehow had an eye to how he was get- 
ting on. Perhaps it was because, as a rule, there 
was nothing to talk about out there, but fish, 
fish, fish. But we did a lot more minding other 
people's business than we had any right to. 
Upon my word, looking back now, it might have 
been a series of women's tea-meetings. 

Billy did badly that next trip, and when he 
was home the owner met him on the dock and 
swore at him, and told him he'd " have to give up 

his d d Bethelling, or get out of his ship." 

Poor Billy was awfully down on his luck then, 
though he left the dock flying the " Bethel " flag 
at his masthead. For somehow everything went 
against him, and the fleet made some big Sunday 
hauls. I don't think he did badly in reality. That 
is, he made good paying trips, but his owner was 
a money-grubber, and he couldn't get over the 
good hauls that he thought Billy was losing. So 
next time he gave him his choice — to stop 


Bethelling or clear out — though you must know 
he was a regular church-goer himself, and with 
his family always made a great show on Sun- 

All that voyage, Billy worked his level best, 
and his crew stood by him nobly, for they all 
liked him. I noticed, too, that Tom was a good 
deal more aboard with Billy. I supposed it was 
just sympathy. But one fine Sunday, when we 
all shot for a haul, our mate sang out, " Why, 
look there, skipper, there's the Rover with a flag 
up, following Billy Cullington. I do believe he's 
turned pious, too; though if report's right, it 
ain't time to be Bethelling now, as the owners 
aren't going to have any of it." 

This news also soon went home, and though 
Tom owned his own ship, it seemed to have got 
the owners well frightened. There was among us 
a regular old boozer, who had once been skipper 
of a ship but had lost it for his drunken habits, 
and had now sunk to be cook under a skipper 
who once had sailed with him as his own cook 
boy. This fellow was so much impressed by the 
harrowing losses the owners were likely to sus- 
tain, that he sent home exaggerated accounts of 
all that went on. He could do it with all thg 

64 The HARVEST of The SEA 

better grace, because there wasn't the least 
fear of his falling into Billy's evil ways him- 

So long before the blow fell, Billy knew it was 
coming, and the thought of his wife and children 
suffering want through his doings was almost 
more than he could bear. Many a yarn about 
him Tom used to come to me with, and many a 
plan as to how he could cheer the little fellow 
up. Indeed, to this day I believe a large factor 
in Tom's own conversion — and so through that 
the fight for Sunday freedom at sea — was the 
love he bore Billy, and the desire to share his 
persecution and so help him to bear it. Thus 
indirectly does the devil, so I believe, always tend 
to overreach himself, and lend a hand to his own 

We weren't long before we heard it at sea. 
His owner had asked Billy for a promise before 
he would let him go to sea again, that he would 
" Fish just like any other man, Sunday or Mon- 
day." Billy had been a wretched man all the 
time the cloud only threatened, but now it had 
burst, he spoke up like the true man he always 
was, and told his owner, right there, that sorry 
as he was to lose his ship (and he had done right 


well in her this last trip, again), he couldn't give 
the necessary promise. 

Just to make it all the harder for him, the slack 
time was coming on in the fisheries, right in the 
heat of summer. So, whether for that reason, or 
because the owners were agreed to force the men 
to do as they always had done, the owner did not 
send Billy's ship to sea, and no one else would 
give him a berth. So he had to walk about on 
the dock doing nothing day after day, and seeing 
all his little home going to the pawn-shop, while 
his ship was tied up to the quay, idle. I would 
more than gladly have offered the little fellow a 
berth on the Wild Wave, but my crew kept 
with me right along, and I couldn't well turn 
them out to make a berth for some one else. 


JUST about this time one of our carriers, 
coming out from London, brought off a 
visitor, who was himself a religious man. 
His name was Mr. Mather. His coming excited 
no surprise, for visitors often came off for a 
holiday, and to get the sea air. He was aboard 
of me once or twice, and seemed to take the state 
of things at sea a good deal to heart, especially 
about the grog-ships. When I told him of little 
Billy, he fairly cried about it. He went back 
home, like all the rest, and we soon forgot that 
he had been with us. But some months after 
there began to be some talk about a mission-ship 
coming out to the fleet, which was to fish all the 
week and keep prayers on Sunday. 

Of course there was a lot of talk about it. 
What good was a mission-boat ? How many 
would go praying on Sundays, even if it were 
too calm to fish ? — at any rate, if there was a 
chance of a spree on the coper. Some said it 





was all a pack o' nonsensec They'd like to see 
any religion that would satisfy North Sea fisher- 
men like a grog-ship. It was cheaper grog 
fishermen wanted, and more of it. They thought 
the Gover'ment ought to send out free grog, 
like they did in the navy. Wasn't a fisherman 
as good as a jack tar, any day o' the week, 
they'd like to know. Fishermen didn't get their 
rights, not by half. They'd make short work of 
any o' them canting preachers. And so on, and 
so on, with all the usual sententious wisdom of 
the tap-room. Most of us thought, I must say, 
that the whole matter would end in talk, while if 
such a thing ever did come up, the most charitable 
of us gave her three months before " they " — 
whoever they might be — " would be mighty 
sorry they ever had anything to do with her." 

One fine day, however, an old Yarmouth 
vessel called the Ensign joined the fleet. I 
knew her well, for I verily believe I could tell 
almost any vessel on the North Sea, in those 
old days, as soon as her spars topped the 
horizon. She had been painted up all new, and 
each bow was decorated with a blue flag, with 
the words " Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen " on 
it. Of course every one had to go and have a 

68 The HARVEST of The SEA 

look at her, for new things at sea are rare, and 
the old ship was like a new pin in her fresh 
paint, dressed as she was, too, in all the bunting 
she could muster. But a greater surprise was 
still in store for us ; for when our boat got along- 
side, who should bob up over the rail but little 
Billy Cullington, grinning like a Cheshire cat ! 

" What cheer, Billy ? What are you doing 
there ? I thought you were on show as a skele- 
ton, by now." 

" O, there's a kick in the old horse yet," he 
replied. " Thank God I've got a job at last that 
don't need no Sunday fishin'. They've given me 
charge o' this craft, and though she sails from 
Yarmouth, I'm to fish along with the Red- White 
fleet, so long as they don't kick me out. But 
come aboard and have a look at her. There 
ain't nothin' what bites aboard, and there ain't no 
charge for looking at her." 

It certainly was score No. I for " the mission 
blokes," as the men called the managers, to have 
chosen Billy for skipper. We all felt at home 
aboard at once, and so we were, too. Nothing 
could tire Billy of showing her off. The ship 
was more to him than any mother's darling. 

" You ain't seen the dispensary, have yer, 


skipper ? Why, I'm half a doctor, now. Bin 
up to a London horspital nigh three months ; 
and look here, I've got the ambulance certificate 
here. I wish you had a pain inside yer. I'd jest 
like yer to try one o' them mixtures. They're 
a'most bound to cure yer. You see it's written 
on the bottle what it's for. This here's cough 
mixture. That's the one suits our crew best. It 
takes away their appetite fine. Dick's bin a 
tryin' a lot o' them, so I could make sure just 
what they'd be good for out here. You see we 
don't have all them things they have ashore." 

Then he would run on about the cabin, or the 
harmonium, or anything he thought we ought to 

" You see that there kettle, skipper ? How 
many do yer think that would make a mug for ? 
Well, just about forty men. I tried it on with 
Jimmy here. He can drink as much as six o' 
most men, and it took him two whole days to 
empty it. My orders is, ' Always have a good 
mug o' tea for any one that comes aboard, and 
just try to make every one comfortable.' There's 
checkers and heaps o' games in that box there, 
and there's a pile o' readin' in the locker — pic- 
tures, too, most of it, so any one can read it. Q' 

70 The HARVEST of The SEA 

course you won't mind taking a bundle with 

And so he rattled on till he really had us all 
as interested in the ship as he was. I almost felt 
it was rather unkind not to have a pain some- 
where in my vitals, just to let the little fellow 
have a try on me with one of his mixtures. In- 
deed, he was so eager to see that every one got 
all they wanted, " just to give the ship a warmin'," 
that it was no fault of his, if no one gave the dis- 
pensary a chance before morning. 

Well, there was a lot of talk about her again. 
Some sneered and said she wasn't wanted, and 
" they didn't see what good she'd do, anyway." 
But at least one or two were real glad to see her, 
and among them, none so glad as Tom. He was 
aboard the morning she arrived, almost before 
she got there. And it seemed at first as if he 
was going to leave the Rover and live aboard 
her. He told me it was a very queer thing, but 
he'd been hoping and hoping that the mission 
vessel would come to our fleet. And it all came 
out afterwards that he and Annie and my wife had 
been praying for it for a long time. Still they 
seemed awfully surprised about it, when it did 
come, as if they didn't much trust that God Al- 


mighty would hear them. To Tom it meant a 
great deal. For the one thing that had kept him 
back from acting like Billy, and telling folk he 
was a Christian, was that he had no trust in him- 
self, and was dreadfully afraid he might make a 
mess of it. For though, as I have told before, 
Tom was in every spree going, he was as weak 
as ditch water, when it came to saying " No " to 
any one. 

The mission-ship proved no loafer. No one 
could say she was sponging on others to make a 
living for her. She fished as hard as any other 
boat, and did her other work besides. Of course 
she did no fishing on Sundays. She kept the 
day from sundown on Saturday till sundown on 
Sunday ; she had no fish to board on the carrier 
on Sunday morning, and was as clean as a new 
pin all day. What seems odd is that no mission 
vessel from that day to this ever has done seven 
days' fishing in the week, and yet they've done 
as well as any of those that did. Year in, year 
out, no vessels have done better than they have, 
though none of them has ever shot a net on a 
Sunday. It was a good thing, too, that they had 
lots o' work to do. Many a man wanted to go 
aboard her, and yet didn't like to, as he had no 

72 The HARVEST of The SEA 

business there. But seeing the crew was so 
worked, almost every morning some one would 
drop aboard to " help them get through with 
fish." For they learnt that Billy's pay depended, 
like every other skipper's, on what he caught, 
while he lost a lot of time by having always to 
be first to reach the carrier, and last to leave it, 
tending on every one. In this way every one 
got a chance to get aboard, on every day that 
the fleet " boarded fish." The very fact that they 
could do something to help the mission-ship out, 
gave a lot of the men a personal interest in her, 
and even those who laughed loudest at the idea 
of such a ship, often went aboard for a yarn, and 
to lend little Billy a hand. 










I HAD made Billy a solemn promise, the day 
he showed us the ship, that on the first fine 
Sunday I would " heave the fleet to " in the 
morning, and come aboard. As it turned out it 
was as smooth as oil the very next Sunday, so I 
kept my promise and went aboard. The vessels 
lay all about, rolling lazily on the swell, some 
mending their nets and looking to their canvas. 
It was a pretty sight, as the smacks with their 
tanned sails helped to show off the mission-ship 
with her spotless white, and her great blue flag 
at the masthead, now and again shaking out a 
bit as she rolled. While sure enough, there at 
the mizzen gaff end, hoisted out on the boat-hook 
staff, was the very " Bethel " flag that had got Billy 
into all his trouble. The hold was laid out with 
fish boxes for seats, and the hatches being off, 
the sunlight poured down and made it a mighty 
cheerful-looking place for service. We could all 
do a bit of singing. Some of us could read a 


74 The HARVEST of The SEA 

bit and most of us knew the words of some of 
the hymns. The service was fine, though it did 
seem queer to me at that time for a lot of us 
fishermen to be going on like that. I'm sure if 
there had been any landsmen there, we should 
have cleared right out, and much more so if the 
mission had sent us out a full-fledged parson. 

I should like you to attend a fishermen's serv- 
ice at sea nowadays. I'm sure you'd be surprised 
to hear the men say their prayers. They do it 
like fishermen do most things, — just as if they 
meant it. And though they can't sing like some 
of the choirs in the churches, there's no doubt 
whatever that they can " make a cheerful noise 
together." They always sing the kind of hymn 
that has a good swing to it, and generally one 
that has a good chorus too. When once you 
got men like " Singing May " or " Teddy Steb- 
bins " under way, with Billy's harmonium, they'd 
hardly stop even for the plum dufT that we al- 
ways had, to mark Sunday dinners. I can't re- 
member all Billy said for his first sermon, but at 
any rate every one understood it. For he never 
did mince matters, and as he knew some of us 
were uncommon bad sinners, he didn't mind 
saying so. It kept all the men listening, espe- 


daily when he talked like any man would on 
deck, and didn't use a single word that every 
one couldn't understand. All the men said after- 
wards that they had " liked it well enough." I 
think some of them that Billy hit hardest said 
they liked it, just to make it seem they didn't 
think it was them he was talking of. Still, Billy 
had a wonderful winning way with him always : 
perhaps that is why no one was hurt. I think 
what made it seem so good was, that every one 
knew that Billy believed and meant every word 
he said. He wouldn't have been surprised one 
bit, I know, if suddenly the sky had opened and 
the blessing he wanted all hands to get, had 
come pouring down like a thunder-shower. 

I suppose I ought to tell how the day ended, 
but it isn't a very easy task. Billy somehow 
managed to keep me and the vice-admiral and 
Tom yarning on, after all the others had gone. 
And then somehow he got a chance, and started 
to talk right straight to us. All he wanted us to 
believe was that God loved us, and even on the 
North Sea cared whether we went to the devil 
or didn't. I'd never thought much about it, and 
even when Tom had spoken about it once or 
twice lately, it hadn't seemed very likely. I knew, 

76 The HARVEST of The SEA 

of course, that my girl would give her eyes to 
get me to care about that sort of thing; but 
somehow, though I liked her to go to chapel 
and all that, it had always seemed for women 
and such like, and not for me. A great deal of 
what happened that night was due to Tom, for I 
couldn't but see what a different man it had 
made of him. He was as gentle as a woman in 
thinking for others, and yet was as smart as he'd 
ever been with the fish, and fuller of his fun than 
even when we were lads together. Indeed, if 
one man ever loved another I loved Tom, and 
would have gone over the side any time for him 
at a moment's notice. 

Well, we weren't much used to kindnesses in 
those days, and I remember at last Billy's last 
argument. " I know I'm not made for talkin'," 
he said. " If I knowed how to persuade yer, I'd 
do it right here. Look here," he said, as a 
bright thought seemed suddenly to strike him, 
and he went off to his cabin. In a moment or 
two he returned with three great warm new 
woollen mufflers— the best we had ever seen, I 

" Yer see them mufflers. Well, some ladies 
on the land, what never saw yer, knitted them 


mufflers. There's the whole thing in them 
mufflers right enough. Now I'm to give yer 
these if yer'll admit it." 

" What's in them, Billy ? " I asked as I unrolled 
one of them. And a noble piece of work it was 
too. Must have taken a powerful lot of their 
time, besides the wool. " Why, love's in 'em," 
he shouted triumphantly ; " love, o' course. 
Can't yer see it?" I tried to look as if I ex- 
pected it to be there wrapped up in a lump, and 
couldn't find it. « Why, Bill," he said," I believe 
you know what I mean, only yer don't want to 
own it. Those ladies never saw you, did they ? 
No. Nor you never saw them, nor never will. 
I'd jest like yer to take them mufflers," he 
pleaded. " I know they're better than anything 
I can say." 

I didn't say anything for a time. The fact is, 
I didn't feel like it. Then, before I could think 
of anything he added, " How much more must 
the blessed Saviour have loved yer, when He 
gave His own life for yer." 

It seems very strange, looking back on it all 
these yeixrs after, how so little a thing seems 
to turn the current of a man's whole life. Tom 
broke right down there, and said he'd made up 

7 8 The HARVEST of The SEA 

his mind. And for the first time I can remem- 
ber there were tears in my eyes, too, for our 
vice-admiral, he said just the same. The end of 
it was that from that time to this, I have done 
my best to live as a man ought for whom Christ 
gave His life. And though I know I have made 
a poor hand of it often enough, especially when 
things went wrong with the fleet, and fish was 
scarce, and it seemed as if some of the men were 
taking advantage of me just because they hated 
my " setting myself up as better than any one 
else," I'm of the same mind to-day as I was for 
the first time that night. And if I can hold on 
till perhaps the sea claims me, too, at last, as it 
has two out of us three already, I shall have 
nothing to regret that I ever went aboard the 
mission-ship Ensign. 



MANY a time after that I was able to 
do Billy a good turn by heaving the 
fleet to on a fine Sunday morning, and 
giving every man a chance to go aboard to serv- 
ice. The owners soon stopped saying anything 
about it ; for there grew up quite a number of 
skippers that threw in their lot with the Chris- 
tian men, and the owners soon found out that 
these were the best men they had. They fished 
none the worse, and they sold nothing from their 
ships to the copers ; and a man who went drink- 
ing on the coper wouldn't have called himself a 
Christian. For when a fisherman does go so far 
as to let the rest know that he is " on the Lord's 
side," he intends doing something at it, and 
doesn't want it flung in his face that he is a 
hypocrite ; not if he can help it, that is. In 
fact, a half-and-half Christian had a hot time as 
long as it lasted, though as a rule that wasn't 


80 The HARVEST of The SEA 

very long, for there wasn't anything to gain by 
going to service at sea, as there might be if all 
your neighbours saw you marching your family 
along to church on the land, where it " looks re- 
spectable" anyhow. But in spite of it all the 
grog-ships did enough trade to let us see pretty 
well that we couldn't expect to drive them out all 
together. And now and again there would be 
an old-time spree, and an old time " accident." 
As, for instance, when Skipper Fox ran down 
the Rose of England in broad daylight, and 
drowned every man aboard. Of course, it never 
came out at the inquiry that he was drunk ; but 
he had enough grog in him that morning to 
make most men see six ships, instead of one. 

The coper's great lure was tobacco. Nearly 
every fisherman smokes his pipe : even Billy him- 
self did. Once some one had said they didn't 
see how he, a Christian, could smoke, and asked 
him how he'd like the Lord to come and find 
him with a pipe in his mouth. The questioner 
admitted that once he had " used tobacco himself, 
but gave it up, and after three days never wanted 
it any more." Now Billy never gave his answers 
in a hurry. So he just said, " Well, I don't think 
of the Lord that way, nor o' His coming. Per- 


haps I wouldn't like Him to come and find a 
great fid of this here pork in my mouth. But 
I'll find out and let yer know." 

Billy gave up smoking for a whole month from 
that day, and every night and morning he prayed 
that if the Lord didn't wish him to use tobacco, 
He would take the taste for it away in that 
month. But at the end of the time Billy got 
under way again, for he said he found he wanted 
it just as bad as ever. Moreover, I've heard him 
say, he " knew he could smoke unto the Lord." 
For he was able to go aboard many a craft where 
he knew he wouldn't be wanted otherwise, if he 
just carried a spare bit of tobacco with him. I 
know my wife now often wishes I would sit down 
and take a smoke. I suppose I do get in the 
way at times, for I feel a bit unhandy myself, 
now and again, in among those white curtain 
jimcracks she has in our parlour. Still, I don't 
grudge any man the only bit of fire he has on 
deck, for his six lonely hours on watch, night 
after night, in winter. Anything is company, 
when a man's all alone. I've known men count 
the hours till they called the watch by the six 
smokes and the six pots of tea they would get 
while the net was down. 

82 The HARVEST of The SEA 

The great attraction about the coper's tobacco 
was the price of it. You see, those foreign ves- 
sels paid no duty on it, and could sell it in the 
fleet at thirty-five cents a pound, while to buy 
it at home we had to pay a dollar. It was on 
April the 16th, some two years after the mission- 
ship came out, that Tom and I had just joined 
the fleet — together, as usual. It was my time to 
take the Flags, and I took the fleet over on the 
" Silver Pits " fishing. There was a veritable to- 
bacco famine in the fleet. No coper had been 
with it for a week, the weather being very 
unsettled, and we being a good way from the 
Dutch coast. At last one joined us, and half the 
fleet went aboard, Tom among them. I heard 
the whole story from several hands after- 

It seems there was a plot made at once to 
catch Tom if they could, and make a fool of him. 
So they began singing out to him, " Hullo, Tom ; 
thought you'd got too good to look at an old 
pal, when you saw one. Glad to see you off for 
half an hour, Tom. Going to stay and have a 
taste with us, I suppose," and so on. Tom took 
it all in good part, as he always did, laughed, and 


went below to get his tobacco. " I believe his 
bit-o'-frock has made Tom half a woman/' one 
sang out. " Come, Tom, here's half my glass 
for old friendship's sake." At last, when they 
had taunted him because he was afraid he'd get 
drunk, and was afraid he couldn't control him- 
self, and with all sorts of good-natured chaff, 
they hit him in his weak spot, and at last got 
him to take the " von leedle drop. Shest for 
goot vellowship." And so Tom took that stuff 
with vitriol in it that made his throat burn for 
another " leedle drop, only nodings." And so 
he sat down among then, and soon they had him 
robbed of all his senses. 

At night it looked dirty. Tom's mate began 
to get uneasy, and wondered where the skipper 
had got to. Just at dark some one passing the 
Rover shouted, " Tom's aboard the coper. You'd 
better go and fetch him." So they got the boat 
out again, though already the foam was be- 
ginning to fly, and Tom, drunk and helpless, 
was ferried back aboard his own ship. It was 
already high time to be getting in some canvas. 
Everything looked like a blow, and already night 
was on them. The skipper was laid down on the 

8 4 The HAR VEST of The SEA 

deck, while the men got the boat in, the mate 
going to the tiller himself. Already there was a 
nasty lop, and as the Rover headed up, to let them 
get the boat aboard, a drop or two of water came 
in over the rail. Suddenly in the darkness the 
mate was startled by the skipper staggering right 
into him as he held the tiller. The cold water 
had partly sobered poor Tom, and he knew, by 
some strange instinct, that all hands were needed 
forward to get the boat in. 

" Gi' me the helm, Dick," he hiccoughed, 
" and go for'ard and gi' 'em a hand wi' th' boat." 

" No, no, skipper. You go below. You ain't 
well. You ain't fit to steer just now." 

But the cursed drink had got poor Tom 
turned into another man altogether, and the 
Demon of the Bottle in him shrieked out, " Wha' 
did I say ? Gi' me th' tiller. Isn't th' Rover my 
ole ship ? I'll — steer — her — ter — hell, I tell yer, 
if I like." With that, mad in his cups, he 
wrenched the lanyard from the frightened Dick, 
and leant for a moment over the tiller. At that 
instant a great green sea rolling aft hit the rud- 
der, gave the long, low tiller a great kick, and 
hove Tom over the rail into the water. 


It was useless even to look for him in the dark- 
ness, and so the mate had nothing to do but take 
the vessel home, the flag half-mast. Worse than 
all else, he had to go and tell Annie that Tom — 
her brave, gentle Tom — had gone out into eternity 




YES, — now it was too late ; it came right 
home to us. Annie pined away from 
that day. She never could see that, 
though the old book says, " No drunkard shall 
inherit the Kingdom of God," God is greater 
even than our interpretation of His own book. 
And that He knew Tom was never a drunkard. 
God's ways are past finding out. And I shall 
always think that Tom's death was necessary to 
bring the fight with the grog-ships to an issue, 
and so save perhaps many another victim from 
hell on earth, and a drunkard's eternity. 

Little Billy called a meeting on the mission- 
ship as soon as we could get together, and the 
upshot of it was that the mission-folk decided to 
sell tobacco on their vessels. But how were 
they to compete with the foreign tobacco in 
price ? The Government wouldn't hear of the 
mission carrying it out even to the high seas, in 
bond. They said it would lead to a lot more 



smuggling. Even as it was, the boats came in 
often enough with their furled sails stuffed with 
it, and blocks of hard tobacco nailed up every- 
where they could stow it out of sight. 

But the managers of the mission were deter- 
mined this time. They found out that if the 
manufacturers would let them have it at cost 
price, and ship it for them in bond to Ostend, 
they could send the mission-boats over there, 
take it out to sea duty free, as the grog-vessels 
did, and then sell it at twenty-five cents a pound 
(the grog-ship charged thirty-five), and still cover 
expenses. When the first mission-vessel got over 
there, however, she had her net alongside — a thing 
no grog-vessel ever carried. So there was yet 
another difficulty. For they would not let her 
have it as a trader, and she wouldn't dare to go 
into Yarmouth to get her net, if she had taken 
the tobacco on board. So she had to get a 
" chum " to take charge of her net at sea, and 
then run in and get what she wanted. More- 
over, as there were not yet mission-ships with all 
of the fleets, they made arrangements with a 
couple of trustworthy skippers in each fleet to 
take charge of a good supply. When they had 
to leave for home, they always transferred the 

88 The HARVEST of The SEA 

balance of their tobacco to another vessel ; so 
none of the tobacco ever went back to England. 
Each of these tobacco-ships used to carry 
a fathom of blue bunting a little way up the 
foretopmast stay. 

This was the beginning of the end for the 
grop-ships ; for the tobacco being cheaper and 
just as good, every one went to the mission-ships 
for it, and the other vessels began to lose money. 
And now, too, the Government let the mission 
have what had always been refused before. A 
bonded warehouse was assigned to it at Yar- 
mouth, and the trouble and expense of going to 
Ostend were saved. In return the mission-ships 
undertook to send in weekly reports of the 
amount of tobacco supplied to the different 
vessels, and this helped to stop smuggling. 

Billy was a happy man when he found the 
grog-vessel was really beginning to feel his 
presence. Many an artful dodge he tried, to 
make it as hard as possible for the men to get to 
the coper at all. He always kept as far off as 
possible in the morning, that no one putting a 
boat out for tobacco would find it easy to board 
the coper the same day. Moreover, there were 
so many men aboard the mission-boat, for one 


thing or another, that there was more company, 
better fun and a heartier welcome there, than on 
the grog-ship itself. So the old grog-ships were 
driven out at last, long before international 
treaties made the sale of liquor on the high seas 
a crime and rendering the vessel liable to seizure 
by a gunboat of any nation. Finally, even the 
Tricolour — the last to shelter them — took a stand 
against the copers ; and so these pirates of the 
North Sea became a thing of the past. 

The mission-vessels now began to exert a much 
greater influence. Billy believed that there was 
only one thing to keep fishermen straight. He 
had seen many a good man safely weather the 
wild northeasters, and then get wrecked, body 
and soul, when he came into port. For these 
men have not only great strong bodies, but 
passions to correspond, both of which are cooped 
up at sea for months at a stretch ; so it is not 
surprising that they often lose their self-control, 
when surrounded by the temptations of the ports. 
There every kind of net is spread to catch the 
sailor, and rob him of his money and his self- 
respect; and where one is utterly unknown, one 
has no fear of being talked about. 

Billy believed the only control strong enough 

9 o The HARVEST of The SEA 

to help at these times, must come from above. 
So, in spite of the added work, he never allowed 
a morning to pass, when men came aboard, with- 
out his urging some of them not to go away 
without a word or two of prayer. On a fine 
morning this generally included one or two of 
those swinging old hymns which every one was 
beginning to know now ; and often enough Billy 
would give one of his " talks," or some visitor 
from London would give an informal little ad- 

Little by little the number of Christian skippers 
increased ; and the improvement in their homes on 
the shore was very noticeable. The magistrates 
often remarked that fewer fishermen found their 
way to jail nowadays ; while the cruelty to the 
prentice lads almost ceased. Sometimes I think 
a little more rope's ending doesn't hurt a young 
sailor. Our laws would almost make " Mollies " 
of them nowadays. Our chief magistrate stated 
that only half the number of police had been 
needed in the fishermen's quarter when most of 
them were at home (i. e., about Christmas and 
Easter), since the mission had begun its work. 
So the prophets who had said it was " free grog 
and less cant " the men needed, were both right 


and wrong. For that religion isn't cant which 
helps to make men into new creatures ; while the 
freedom needed about the grog, was freedom 
from the devil's chain, which had made slaves of 
so many of the best men amongst us. 

But those who said the " mission blokes " 
would soon be sorry enough they had had any- 
thing to do with it, were wrong altogether. For 
the one little ship became two, and the two three, 
and the three became thirteen — till not only 
was there one for every fleet on the North Sea, 
but even with all the single boaters, in the Bris- 
tol Channel, on the coast of Iceland, and at last 
with our brothers across the Atlantic, on the 
wild coasts of Labrador, the same blue flag was 
hoisted to the breeze that had meant a message 
of hope and of help to seamen in their times of 
need, far away on the wild North Sea. 



THERE were other ways in which the 
mission was able to lend a hand. Worse 
accidents often befell us, than even 
Billy's surgical skill could cope with. Thus, 
Skipper Jack Green was hit by a heavy sea one 
day, flung into the lee scuppers, and washed to 
and fro on the deck among the great iron trawl 
heads, beams and other wreckage. He was 
found lying half dead under a mass of rubbish, 
with his thigh badly broken. The crew got him 
down below, but they were too frightened to try 
and do anything for him. Billy must be sent for 
at all hazards. In oil frocks and cork life-jackets, 
like old knights in armour, they started off in 
such weather as bade fair to add to the number 
of broken limbs needing his attention. They got 
the little fellow, however, and came back with 
him in triumph, much as if he were a bundle of 
his own reading matter. 

When he had been wrung out a bit, he ex- 



amined the case, and though he had a fisher- 
man's hands more like a great crab's than a 
doctor's, he could handle a wound as tenderly as 
any one. He at once pronounced the case as 
being too much for him. Billy's special delight 
had always been pains in the " inside." " So 
many has them, you see," he used to say, when 
he was accused of devoting undue attention to 
them. It had to be a very scattered man who 
went to him for medicine, and got away again 
without something to put the " inside " right. 
Indeed, I always thought of Billy's bottle labelled 
" Stomach Mixture," when we used to read about 
the widow's cruse of oil. But on this occasion, 
as I have said, even he had to admit that the 
famous bottle was inadequate to meet the case. 

" You'll have ter go to the horspital, Jack," he 

The ship was still rolling and tossing, and the 
sick man groaning, as every movement sent a 
fresh agony through him. 

" Go to the horspital ? " he replied. " No, I 
couldn't stand being moved on deck again. It 
would kill me, I know." 

Billy was already hammering up a fish trunk, 
and setting every one to work to make a suitable 

94 The HJR VEST of The: SEA 

box to put the injured limb in. When at last he 
had it stuffed well with oakum, he lashed it on 
with a good roll of tarry spunion. Skipper Jack 
got a little ease then, and was grateful enough. 

" It'll be all right soon, Billy," he said. " I ex- 
pects I'll be able to get about again in a short 

" You'll do no such thing," said Billy. " If 
you can get the vessel home, I'm not saying that 
wouldn't be the best thing. If you can't, you 
must go in the carrier to horspital, and be sharp 
about it." 

Billy knew what a compound fracture meant, 
and that poor Skipper Jack's thigh was badly 
broken was plain to every one. 

The weather continued bad, and the wind con- 
tinued ahead for a passage home ; so on the third 
day Billy insisted that Jack had better risk the 
voyage to the steamer, than wait any longer. 
For the skipper was in a fever, and Billy had 
visions of mortification setting in. 

" You'll have ter risk it, Jack," he said ; " and 
I'm a-going ter risk it, too. My mate's going 
ter keep the ship here, and I'm going with you 
to London in the carrier." 

Already Skipper Jack showed signs of wander- 


ing, so they wouldn't take him on the carrier 
without some one to have an eye to him. Ferry- 
ing fish in bad weather is one thing, but ferrying 
a heavy man with a broken thigh is quite an- 
other. When, after long waiting, they at last got 
him into the small boat and alongside the steamer, 
their task was only begun. The great steamer, 
with her high perpendicular sides and no ladder, 
was rolling in the trough of the sea ; and the lit- 
tle boat with the helpless man in it was now 
buried under her bulwarks as she rolled towards 
it, and again flung with its keel almost on the 
steamer's rail, as a green swell heaved up and 
spun her into the air. At the critical moment a 
cross sea came along, the splinting caught on the 
rail as it passed aboard, and poor Skipper jack 
was more dead than alive before he found him- 
self on the hard rolling locker, waiting to face a 
three-hundred-mile journey to market with the 
fish. The lashings, too, were all knocked adrift 
from the injured leg, and the fracture ten times 
worse than before. Billy never left him a mo- 
ment till he got him to the great London hos- 
pital, and thereby saved his life. But it was too 
late, the surgeon said, to save the limb ; so Skip- 
per Jack never knew what it was to tread a deck 

96 The HARVEST of The SEA 

again, and a hard time his young family had, liv- 
ing on the charity of the neighbours for the most 
part, just because there was no doctor in the 

Then again there was my own deckie, Davie 
Page. The lad was with me from the time I 
first took over the Wild Wave. He was the 
pluckiest climber I have ever seen. He would 
come down the after leach rope of the topsails 
head down. I don't think he knew what fear 
was, and he was supple as a cat. Right out at 
sea, he would go up and sit on the main truck, or 
spin round on it on his stomach. Once he had 
been trying some balancing trick on the rail, 
when somehow he slipped and fell overboard. 
The mate hove him a rope, and though he could 
not swim a yard, he actually let go of it with his 
hands and was hauled aboard as if he were a cod- 
fish, holding on to it with his teeth. 

Well, the fleet was then off* Herschels, on the 
north coast of Denmark, working amongst the 
strong tides of the Skaggerack. Our deckie had 
gone below to help the cook lad with the dinner, 
as it was such a nasty choppy sea, and was just 
lifting the great boiling kettle off the fire when a 
nasty cross sea suddenly flung the ship to one 


side, and even Davie's agiiity did not save him 
being shot to leeward with all the boiling stuff on 
top of him. Billy was adrift, a little to one side 
of the fleet, and I didn't find him till next day. 
Meanwhile I couldn't get the clothes off poor 
Davie : they all seemed glued to him ; all we 
could think of was to lay him on our hard wood 
locker, and keep him well soaked in cold water. 
He tried to make out it didn't pain him much, 
but every now and again the moving wrung a 
groan from him. It was another of those cases 
that was " too much " for Billy. All he could do 
was to get the poor fellow's clothing off, and give 
him something to ease the pain. He was afraid 
to do too much. 

" You go straight for Grimsby, Bill," he said to 
me. " It's a fine fair wind, and you'll likely 
enough be home in forty-eight hours." 

The sky looked like continued westerly 
weather, so we left the fleet at once. Next morn- 
ing, however, it fell stark calm, and so it stayed 
for nearly three days, with not a sail in sight, — 
just blistering hot calm days, and no chance of 
getting anywhere. All the time poor Davie lay 
on the locker, wandering in his mind, and shout- 
ing about all sorts of strange things he thought he 

98 The HARVEST of The SEA 

saw. At last when the wind did get up, it was 
all ahead, and so I held on and on, close hauled, 
with our head to the south'ard, till I sighted 
Heligoland, where I ran in and got a doctor to 
come off. He had Davie sent ashore, and they 
looked after him right well. He was saved by 
the skin of his teeth, but the terrible scarring 
seemed to take all his old suppleness out of him, 
and he was never the same lad again. 

So we were often hoping and praying a doctor 
would come out to each fleet, and have a little 
hospital aboard the mission-ship, — though we all 
thought a single week out here would capsize 
any doctor alive. 



ONE morning when we boarded the 
cutter from London, we found a visitor 
there from the Council of the Mission. 
It was a doctor, come out to see if a hospital ship 
and a doctor with the fleets was a possibility. 
He at once proved himself to be a splendid man. 
None of your dandies, always lying about and 
wanting things done for them, making you half 
afraid they'd drop to pieces or overboard when 
you weren't looking. No, — he was every inch a 
sailor born, never seasick, and able to be about in 
all weathers, blow high, blow low. I've seen 
him in the small boats when they were boarding 
fish, and on the carrier's bridge, when the seas 
were coming over both to leeward and to wind- 
'ard, and the men and fish boxes being washed 
about in the scuppers like a lot of ninepins. 

He never missed a haul without turning out 
and giving a hand, the whole time he was out, 
and helped to paw the net like a new deck hand. 
He had the right stuff in him. Everybody 


ioo The HARVEST of The SEA 

knows his name now, because all England — yes, 
and the whole world — rang with it not long ago, 
when he saved the King's life. For Frederick 
Treves — Sir Frederick, as he is called now — was 
the first doctor that ever came out to the fishermen 
in the North Sea. And while he has saved the 
highest in the land, through him hundreds of the 
fishermen also have been saved from suffering 
and loss and perhaps death. Who shall say 
which he will one day look back on as the better 

As soon as he returned, a young doctor joined 
the Ensign for the whole of a two months' cruise 
in winter. He told them all that he thoroughly 
enjoyed it, and what was odd to us, he really 
seemed to. The fleet gave him a great ovation 
when the ensign's time was up. Every vessel 
was lighted up with coloured flares on deck and 
aloft. And heaps of rockets went up to say 
good-bye. After that a hospital was fitted up for 
him on one of the larger mission-vessels, and from 
that time on, the largest fleets at least have never 
been without a doctor. 

In 1890 Her Majesty ordered the first real 
hospital ship to Osborne in the Isle of Wight, 
where she graciously inspected it herself, and by 


the request of the mission named it the Queen 
Victoria. That vessel was shortly followed by 
her sister ship, the Albert, and that by others. 
Thus, though many fish-eaters never thought 
about there being fish-catchers living far away at 
sea, the Queen herself found time to think of us 
among the countless interests of her vast do- 
minions, and all her own family cares and sor- 
rows, and " God save and bless the Queen " went 
up from the heart and lips of many a deep-sea 

Many changes have taken place since then, 
and many of the old abuses have been remedied. 
Regulations have been made that have greatly 
reduced the loss of life while boarding fish. 
Masters and mates are obliged to hold certificates 
of competence. There is no longer room for 
drunken skippers. Apprentices nowadays are 
not cruelly treated or thrown into prison. By 
means of the enormous amount of reading matter 
distributed every year, the men's higher faculties 
have been stimulated, and their lower passions 
brought under better control. Moreover, all the 
lads are sent to school and taught to read and 
write, and a better-educated, more self-respecting 
set of men has grown up. 

102 The HARVEST of The SEA 

One more greatly needed addition to the 
mission work came later. Ladies all over the 
land ceased to be content to help only by knit- 
ting woollen articles such as the fishermen 
needed, but were often unable to buy. These of 
course are an immense boon in winter, and as 
they wear out very quickly are one of the most 
expensive parts of a fisherman's outfit. Sea- 
boot stockings, mufflers, mittens and even guern- 
seys are sold now at nominal prices on the mis- 
sion-ships. One of the most painful and other- 
wise almost inevitable injuries are rendered 
largely a thing of the past. I refer to sea-water 
boils, and deep cracks in the fishermen's hands 
and wrists caused by the chafing of the oily 
frocks. These admit the dirty salt water and fish 
cleansings, and when the men are asleep the 
tissues set something like cement, and it takes 
an hour or so of exquisite agony to work them 
loose again. Many a man has lived to bless the 
knitters of the mittens that mean so much to 

But, as I say, the ladies ceased to be satisfied 
with this. Finding what a lot of orphans and 
friendless boys there were, and how many of 
them were from the workhouses, reformatories 


and industrial homes, they set to work to form a 
letter-writing association. The movement started 
when one of the judges of the London courts was 
off to visit the fleets. He noticed how very eager 
the men were, not only for news, but for letters, 
and how few ever got any. So much so, that 
when sometimes a disappointed man had searched 
through the box and found none of his own, he 
was tempted to take some one else's, as bet- 
ter than none. From one lady writing to one 
friendless lad, an association some two thousand 
strong has grown up, and many and many a 
young fellow, who only needed the touch of 
personal sympathy that has often come in this 
strange and unpromising way, has been brought 
to serve the Master, and to cast in his lot with 
Christian men. The sense of having a true, 
though unseen friend ashore, makes it easier to 
realize the unseen presence of another and a 
greater Friend. 


ONE loophole still remained to be filled. 
Men who had come under the influence 
of the mission-vessels, found a terrible 
void when they came home from sea. I suppose 
there must be something queer about us fisher- 
men when on the land. We are a bit clannish and 
don't care to mix with landsmen that we don't 
know, so often enough a man ashore is like a 
codfish out of water. As the dangers ashore 
were ten times as many as those afloat, now that 
the grog-vessels were gone, not a few good men fell 
back when at home. One reason was that a young 
fellow's pockets were then full of money, which 
at sea he couldn't spend. There were many dis- 
tressing cases, when fathers were victimized by 
the crimps, the land-sharks and the saloon- 
keepers that abounded in the fishermen's quar- 
ters. They paraded their flaring attractions on 
every side, directly a boat's crew landed. Some 
of their efforts were thoroughly organized. The 



names of the crews of each of the vessels were 
kept registered, and the time for them to be at 
home as carefully noted as by their wives and 
friends. Many a man was met at the dock side, 
on landing, and never allowed to see his home till 
he had been robbed of every penny of his pay. 
Sometimes he never saw it at all, being carried 
aboard his vessel drunk and sent to sea again, his 
mate having looked after the revictualling of his 

I remember passing a saloon-door on the main 
street one dark and rainy winter night. Just as 
the light from the window fell on me, a tall, 
gaunt woman, who in the early days of her 
married life had lived in a comfortable little home 
next to my own, touched me on the shoulder. 

" Bill," she said, " the Bonnie Lass is in, isn't 
she ? " 

" You, Jennie ! " I said, quite startled. " Yes, 
lass, she came in this morning. What are you 
doing here this dreadful night, and you only half 
clad ? " 

" I'm looking for Joe. You haven't seen him, 
have you ? " 

" No, Jennie, I can't say I have. Hasn't he 
been home yet ? " 

106 The HARVEST of The SEA 

" They've got him into one of these hells/' she 
sobbed. " You'll help me, for old times' sake, 
won't you, Bill ? " 

" Help you, Jennie ? — of course I will. You 
just run home ; I'll find Joe." 

" No, no," she wailed ; " I'll come too." 

The third saloon I entered, there sat Joe, half- 
dazed, with five or six of those infernal thieves 
plying him with liquor. They hadn't got his 
money out of him yet. 

" Come on, Joe," I said ; " your wife wants you." 

He looked at me in a sheepish way, as if he 
couldn't see who I was. " Come, Joe," I re- 
peated — " come along with me. I'll see you 

" Let the man alone," shouted one of the 
scoundrels, several others backing him up. 
" What business is it of yours, if the man wants 
a drink after a voyage ? " 

" Step over here, and I'll tell you what business 
it is of mine," I replied. Thank God, a man 
isn't a deep-sea fisherman all his life, to fear half 
a dozen saloon bullies, so long as he has his 
senses. The man made a step my way, — (some- 
times I'm sorry for what I did, but the devilry of 
the whole business made me mad), but before 


he had time to take another, I had him at arm's 
length over my head. He only felt like a heavy 
fish-box. The next moment I hove him head 
first among his pals, as if it was over the cutter's 
rails. He knocked over one man as he went, 
and lit on his head, where he lay without moving 
a finger. No one said a word. Perhaps it was 
as well they didn't ; some one would have been 
killed if they had. 

So I marched up to Joe, took him by the arm 
and led him to the door in a silence like the 
grave. No one moved to see even if I had 
killed my man. All I ever heard of him after 
was that they took him to a hospital and said he 
had fallen down-stairs. It doesn't pay that kind 
of gentry to go to the courts if they can help it. 
Once outside, the cold air and rain sobered Joe a 

« All right, Bill," he said, " let go. I'll go 

Like a fool, I did so. Suddenly he caught 
sight of poor shivering Jennie, and before I 
could stop him, he had rushed at her, hit her fair 
between the eyes, and sent her flying into the 
mud and darkness. Then jerking his hand from 
his trousers pocket, he hurled a handful of gold 

108 The HARVEST of The SEA 

at her with an oath. The man was mad with the 
poison he had been drinking. 

The end of poor Joe doesn't concern this 
narrative : suffice it to say that some of us saw 
him safely through this time at home. But such 
cases were all too frequent, and the mission was 
at length forced to take up work ashore, in order 
to supplement the work of the ships at sea. Now 
there are fine institutes for deep-sea fishermen 
only, at all their chief ports. Everything is done 
to make them at home. There they can find 
beds, food, lockers to leave their clothes in, 
games, clubs, savings-banks — everything. Each 
is managed by a fisherman who has been well 
known to the men at sea as a first-class cook, and 
a cheerful, clean-living, Christian man, and one 
who loves to yarn about the fish as much as the 
fishermen do themselves. Thus quite a number 
of the young fellows lodge always at these places, 
and as they pay for all they get, they need feel 
no less pride in spending money there than 
many a poor fool does in standing treat in those 
dens of iniquity they used to be driven to. In 
fact, these institutes are run on common-sense 
principles, and are almost entirely self-supporting 
after once they get under way. 


Here again the loving self-sacrifice of ladies 
has been of untold value. More than one has 
freely given her life to the service of the fisher- 
men, and is reaping the reward of as sincere a 
love and devotion as a warm-hearted, generous 
lot of men (forgive me, reader, if I seem egotistic) 
are capable of giving. May God abundantly 
bless them, say I, for all their devotion. One of 
the direct results of this work has been the shut- 
ting up of numbers of these hells, for the best of 
all reasons — the want of custom. A United 
Fishermen's Christian Association has done ad- 
mirable work, establishing, among other things, 
homes for aged fishermen, unfit to cope longer 
with the vicissitudes of the only calling they are 
fitted for. One can't fancy an old fisherman 
driving one's carriage, and trying to tack in a 
crowded street, or exploiting a knowledge of sea- 
weeds and shell-fish in one's flower garden. His 
chances of saving for an old age have not been 
increased by an early marriage ; though that was 
almost essential, if there was to be one spot on 
God's earth that he could call home when he re- 
turned from the hardship, peril and monotony of 
his long banishments from his native land. 
Better far for a fisherman who has " passed his 

no The HARVEST of The SEA 

day," to join the great majority of the comrades 
of his younger days, sleeping their last peaceful 
sleep beneath the surface of the boundless deep, 
than to suffer the miseries of a poverty-stricken 
and neglected old age. For to the aged deep- 
sea fisherman a grateful country awards only the 
stigma of the poorhouse, and the uniform that 
brands him as a pauper. 

These old folks' homes, though, alas ! all too 
few, are at least run on the right lines. Each 
inmate has his own allowance, and spends his 
money as he likes best within the most liberal 
limits. And in front of each is a small plot of 
grass or cabbages with the traditional tarry paling 
at the end, giving to their failing eyesight till the 
very last a vision of that mighty deep on which 
they have lived and that has so long paid tribute 
to their skill and courage. 

The spiritual work of the mission is still done 
by the fishermen themselves, aided by such 
volunteer evangelists as choose to come out, and 
whose very presence, for no pecuniary return 
whatever, is itself a guarantee that they believe 
they have a message worth coming out to de- 
liver. Steam has replaced sail power in these 


last few years, and the mission has had to sell its 
sailing hospitals, and replace them with the ex- 
pensive modern steam fishing-boats and hospitals 
that cost no less than sixty thousand dollars a piece 
— one of them being the gift of a zealous mem- 
ber of the Council. They are fitted with steam- 
heating, electric lights, Roentgen ray apparatus, 
and every modern requirement. But the spirit- 
ual work, as I have said, is still done voluntarily. 
It is not the fishermen's wealth of language, nor 
their doctrinal orthodoxy, nor their rhetorical 
skill, that makes them the best men to do the 
work. It is their simple, unwavering faith, their 
intense earnestness and practicality in all they 
do. Their lives, too, which are known and read 
by all their congregation, are credentials not to 
be gainsaid. Hence it is that they achieve to- 
day results more nearly apostolic than we are 
accustomed to see in our churches on the land. 


ABOUT this time one of the Council of 
the Mission, on his way to Canada, 
heard a good deal about the great num- 
ber of fishermen catching cod and halibut and 
herring and seals off the northwest Atlantic 
coast. He returned by way of Newfoundland, to 
find out more about them. 

All their ways are very different from ours. 
They do not send their fish to market fresh, but 
salt it ; nor can they keep the sea all winter, ow- 
ing to the ice that comes down from the Arctic 
regions. A number of the men go to the great 
fishing banks, using long lines as has been so 
well described in " Captains Courageous." As 
soon as the break up of the ice makes it possible, 
a much larger number start out in almost every 
sort of sailing craft, for the banks and shoals off 
the rocky coast of Labrador. They return in the 
fall, when the ice begins to form again, having 
been away from May to October. In the spring 







of the year, from every nook and cove small ves- 
sels are to be seen working their way out among 
the ice pans, carrying down not only the men 
and boys, but the women and children as well, 
and all the household utensils, furniture, bedding, 
and food and every requisite for the long sum 
mer's fishing. All these are to be dropped at 
some natural harbour on the Labrador coast, 
where there is a rude tilt, and probably a small 
fishing stage, left from the previous year; and 
here one crew, or it may be a dozen, will form a 
small settlement and fish from that place in boats 
which they leave here from year to year. A 
single crew remains on the schooner, and goes on 
a fishing trip further north. At the end of the 
voyage with all the fish, split and salted, stowed 
away in the hold, this solitary crew returns to the 
station. The men that have remained are called 
" stationers " ; the others are green-fish catchers. 

The crews are formed by a skipper shipping a 
number of men to go with him, usually his sons 
or other relations. An agreement is made with 
some merchant to give them what they need to 
fit out the vessel and all hands for the venture. 
There are no apprentices among them. The 
men often build their own schooners, for they 

ii 4 The HARVEST: of The SEA 

are obliged to be very handy men ; and any one 
can go out and cut down whatever timber he 
wants for fishery purposes. In return for the 
outfit, the skipper sells — or, as they say, " turns 
in" — all the fish he catches to "his merchant." 
He is then given his account. If anything is due 
to him, it must by law be paid in cash. But as a 
matter of fact it very seldom is. The skipper 
" takes up " in the merchant's store what he needs 
for the winter, and to get his gear in order again 
for the next summer. A man who thus takes 
out a supply is called a " planter." 

The troubles of this system are very real. 
The merchant has to run a great risk. He lets 
out, in the form of goods, large sums of money, 
which he has to borrow from the bank. If the 
fishing is bad, he may never be paid at all, be- 
cause the planters cannot meet their debts. 
Again, if they can just pay, still the merchant 
is expected to make another advance for the 
winter. If the summer fishing is very good, the 
price of fish falls, and things are then perhaps 
worse than ever, the fish not paying the cost of 
storing and making and sending to market. Or, 
again, a fisherman may be tempted to sell his fish 
elsewhere, when he sees that he will have noth- 


ing coming to him after the settling, and fears 
that no advances will be made to him for his 
family for the winter. In these ways many of 
the merchants have been ruined. And a few 
years ago the banks that they owed their own 
advances to, went bankrupt as a result. Thus 
the supplying merchants have to demand a great 
margin of profit on the goods they supply, if 
they are to make ends meet. While this favours 
the man who does not pay, it handicaps very 
seriously the man who does. The whole " truck 
system," as it is called, is a ruinous one in every 
way. It has been exceedingly difficult for the 
country to throw it off, as the long winter of 
more or less enforced idleness has kept the fish- 
ermen continually in debt. Of late years, how- 
ever, the opening of mines, and the starting of 
pulp and lumber mills and other industries, have 
been slowly enabling a number of the fishermen 
to get free. To be born in debt, to live in debt, 
and to die in debt, has been the lot of many a 
Newfoundland fisherman. On the other hand, 
these men have advantages denied their fellows 
in the old country. They can build and own 
their own houses, they can get all the fire-wood 
they need, and they have no rates to pay, as we 

n6 The HARVEST of The SEA 

have. They have long periods when they are 
entirely their own masters, when they can do 
just as they like, and they have much more time 
to enjoy life than we have, especially since the 
steam trawling began. Indeed, they can enjoy 
many pleasures that are reserved for the rich in 
our country. 

The following story of a Labrador fisherman's 
life explains what their lot is, better than I could 
do it in any other way. 



AS long as I can remember, I have been 
going every year to the Labrador fishery, 
and since I have been strong enough, 
every winter to the ice, hunting seals. Indeed, I 
was born in the cabin of a fishing-schooner, as 
she lay in the ice off the coast, on her way to the 
summer fishery. My grandfather came out from 
Dorsetshire in England, with one of the great 
Jersey fishing firms, and my father also followed 
the fishery till he was lost in his own vessel with 
all hands, coming from St. Johns late one fall. 
A heavy gale blew the schooner off the coast, 
and she was no doubt lost through her running 
rigg m g getting coated with ice, and so becoming 

There were six of us boys, until two were lost 
with my father ; and then I was left the second 
oldest, so that the care of the family developed 
partly on me at the age of fifteen. The insurance 
on the schooner, and the nets and gear my father 


u8 The HARVEST of The SEA 

/eft, enabled us to continue going to Labrador as 
usual. The neighbours, also, lent us every pos- 
sible help, as the custom is amongst Newfound- 

Our hardest work in winter was hauling the 
fire-wood. For this we had six fine dogs. These 
were my special care. Making their harness and 
the komatik, or sleigh, and feeding the dogs and 
driving them to and fro from the woods, was 
always more play than work to me. Still, when 
you had been at it from daylight to dark, cutting 
one day and hauling the next, you were always 
able to do your share of sleeping. A boy has to 
learn to handle an axe as soon as he can walk 
out here, and some say we are born with netting 
needles in our hands. " Netting " used to occupy 
all our spare moments, and it was little time for 
school I ever had, as both salmon and cod twine 
had to be got ready. 

Whenever I could get half a chance I was 
away gunning. In the fall we used to shoot 
ducks from our punt We started out before 
daylight and rowed out to the head-of-land. 
Just at dawn the birds come flying along, and 
many a morning I have bagged a dozen by 
breakfast-time. Then seldom a fall went by that 


we did not get a few deer. For though we only- 
used a large muzzle-loading shotgun, she used to 
carry a ball well ; and deer were plentiful at that 
time. All that we shot was frozen down in 
barrels with snow, and thus made to keep all 
winter. What pride I used to take in seeing our 
wood-pile grow under my hand, — and in seeing 
my mother's pleasure when we brought home 
game for the larder ! Then we had always a few 
sheep to feed and tend. As soon as we returned 
from the fishery in Labrador, we had to go up in 
the bay and cut wild hay for them. This we 
heaped up and covered with boughs till we were 
ready to haul it home in winter. Then we built 
some sort of a boat almost every winter, and for 
this we had to fell the timber and saw the planks 
with a large pit-saw. We had also the rabbit- 
slips to tend, and every winter there were the fox- 
traps to tail and watch, — that is, whenever we 
could find time to work them. 

By the end of February we had to be fitting 
out, if we were going to the ice after seals. In 
old times we always went in the schooners. 
These had to be cut out from the winter ice, 
rigged and victualled, and every man had to get 
ready his gaff, knife, steel and hauling-rope. 

iao The HARVEST of The SEA 

Nowadays it is all done in the great sealing 
steamers, each carrying from two to three hun- 
dred men. So now we have to walk, or work 
our way, as best we can, to the nearest place we 
can get a chance to ship. That used to be, gen- 
erally, at St. Johns, and this involved a long 
journey, often two or three weeks being neces- 
sary, as there was scarcely any railway till within 
the last few years. 

Though we made very little by it, somehow we 
all looked forward to the " ice-hunting," as we 
called it. For all of us, but especially we younger 
fellows, enjoyed the excitement and even the 
risks. Indeed, laws had to be passed to prevent 
the schooners from sailing before it was neces- 
sary, as our men do not know what fear is when 
" swiles are about." So vessels must now report 
on the day fixed by law, to show that they have 
not taken an unfair advantage by leaving too 
early. It is said that on a certain part of our 
coast where wrecks were common, distress guns 
were heard once during a Sunday morning ser- 
mon. There was a momentary silence, till the 
parson could assure himself that he was not mis- 
taken. Then, seeing some of the congregation 
reaching for their hats, he ordered the sexton to 


hut the door till the sermon was over. Then he 
aid to the congregation, " No, no, boys ; let's 
11 start fair." Hastily winding up the service, 
he raced off at the head of the congregation. So 
it is every year with the seal fishery. We are all 
keen to get there, but we all have to " start 
fair." So winter is a busy time with us after all, 
and in spite of the cold we like it best of all the 

After the sealery, however, comes the really 
busy time. The schooner has to be scraped and 
caulked over and painted, and the nets over- 
hauled and put on board. All the things for the 
summer-house in Labrador have to be stowed, 
and finally the people shipped and made as 
comfortable as possible. Generally we have to 
go all the way to St. Johns first, for supplies of 
food. But usually we are away, at the very latest, 
by early June. Often enough the voyage will 
run into a whole fortnight before we reach our 
harbour, away down on the Atlantic coast, though 
we always race as hard as we can, to get a good 
place to put our trap net down. This is a much 
more important point than you would suppose, 
for we cannot take our nets to the fish, and 
therefore have to place them where the fish are 

122 The HARVEST of The SEA 

sure to pass. So great is the excitement, that 
the Government has had to pass a law forbidding 
any mark to be put out claiming a " trap berth," 
as it is called, before a certain day and hour. 
For there is a temptation to run great risks in 
forcing the small schooners through the ice be- 
fore it is safe. Even now, men will stay out on 
the best points till midnight, waiting till the hour 
has struck, to put out their mark, claiming a 
berth for the year. 

At the beginning of the season we fish for 
salmon, setting long nets from the heads, with a 
kind of " pound " at the end. In these the 
salmon mesh. When caught, they are split 
down the back, salted, and stowed in large 
barrels called tierces, and sent to the United 
States to be washed and smoked, and sold as 
smoked salmon. Soon however the salmon have 
passed into the rivers, and then there arrive great 
shoals of small fish, the size of sardines. These 
come in such immense quantities that the water 
is black with them, and they herald the arrival 
of the " fish." (Salmon is salmon ; but when we 
speak of cod, we call it simply " fish.") These 
small fish are called capelin, and the cod pursue 
them till they run high and dry on the shore. 



Every year we see great wallowing masses of fish 
following the capelin in. This is called the 
" capelin school," and when it comes we expect 
to reap our harvest. 

It is a glorious sight to see, this arrival of the 
fish. Overhead the marvellous transparent sky ; 
below, the glassy surface of the dark blue ocean ; 
here and there the fantastic shapes of great 
mountains of ice, dazzling the eye with a white- 
ness which far exceeds that of the whitest marble^ 
Behind are the mighty cliffs, their jagged faces 
telling the story of their endless battles at first 
with fire, and then with frost and furious seas. 
Along the shores is the great host of eager fish- 

Suddenly the water is alive. Everywhere the 
dense masses are " breaching " the surface, which 
a moment ago was so still and deathlike. Birds 
flying and diving follow in their wake, with seals 
and porpoises, sharks and whales, and countless 
hosts of lean and hungry cod. Ashore even, the 
wild animals are expecting them, and dogs, and 
bears, otters and minks, are hurrying to the land- 
wash to share in the great annual feast, that 
comes, like the rain, to good and bad alike. Our 
net is a great room of twine, anchored down on 

124 The HARVEST of The SEJ 

the bottom by the four corners. There is also a 
long straight net running to the rocks. This is 
called the " leader," because as the shoals of cod 
swim along past the rocks, it leads them right 
into the door. The net is so shaped, that once in- 
side, they never get back to the entrance, but go 
on swimming round and round. The fishermen 
keep a watch on the shore, and are soon off in 
the large trap-boat. Then they look down with 
a water telescope, and if they see any fish they 
pull up the door and empty the trap. It is in 
this way we catch the enormous number of fish 
necessary to make a living. The fish when dried 
and " tallied in " to the merchant on our return 
are sent to the Mediterranean and Brazilian mar- 
kets, and to the West Indies. 

We have other methods also for catching 
" fish," for we use nets in which they will mesh, 
and also " bultos," or long lines fitted with thou- 
sands of hooks. On a fine calm day, as you 
haul up the bulto you can look over the side far 
down into the deep water, and see great white 
things every few yards down, getting smaller and 
smaller till you can see them no more. They 
are all swirling to and fro, and make one think 
of Jacob's ladder with the angels on it, though 



they are really the great cod — which are only 
taken in deep water — coming up on the hooks. 

Having landed our " freighters," as we call 
every one we carry down to stations in Labrador, 
we trim the ship and go either into the Straits 
of Belle Isle or the Gulf of St. Lawrence, or else 
we push on farther north. 



THERE are a number of fisherfolk, who 
live all the year in the southern and 
eastern part of Labrador. As a rule 
they are very poor, being cut off from every 
possible way of helping themselves to rise. They 
are descended from old hunters of the Hudson 
Bay Company, and they live by fishing and trap- 
ping, as we do. We call them " Liveyeres," be- 
cause they live on the coast. 

Then still further north are the Eskimo — a 
queer merry little brown people, with jet-black 
hair, which they cut in a fringe straight across 
the forehead. They are almost always fat and 
jolly, though we cannot understand how they 
manage to be so, seeing the way they live. In 
winter they hunt seal and bear and walrus and 
narwhal, living in houses built of snow. On 
the edge of the ice, as they travel about, they 
make everything they want out of a seal. That 
is one reason we always admire them so : they 



seem to make so many things out of nothing. 
The skin makes them clothing, and tents, and 
coverings for their kayaks or canoes, harness 
and traces for their dogs, lines for their har- 
poons, and bladders for floats. The intestines 
blown up and dried like sausage-covers make 
jugs for oil, and flasks for powder and shot, 
which they can buy now at the stores. They 
also sew the bowel very neatly and make per- 
fectly water-proof clothing out of it ; and as it 
is half transparent they make the window-glass 
for their houses and tents of it. They eat the 
meat and the blubber or fat, which they also use 
in lamps, carved out of a soft soapstone that is 
found on the coast. They make the wicks out 
of moss, which is flat and close from having 
grown in the narrow fissures between the rocks. 
The hide of the walrus they cut up for rope, in 
strips fully an inch thick, and as strong as a hemp 
hawser. This has lots of " give " in it, which 
adds to its strength. The great ivory tusks are 
used to weight and tip their harpoons. Many a 
stone kettle and lamp and arrow-head have I 
picked up in Labrador, for the Eskimo managed 
to kill all they needed in old days with stone im- 
plements. They make queer graves, too. There 

128 The HARVEST of The SEA 

is no earth to bury their dead in, so they just 
heap up stones on their ends, and put flat ones 
on the top. This is done in order that the spirits 
may look out. They always place a man's pos- 
sessions on the ground by the grave, for they 
think that everything has a spirit, even a stone 
knife. The grave is put on a headland, usually 
overlooking the sea where the man used to hunt. 
Thus, when his spirit wants to hunt, it will find 
everything ready. 

The Eskimo are very honest and seldom if 
ever steal : indeed, they hold most things almost 
in common. I never knew one to let another 
go hungry, even if it took the very last bit he 
had to feed him. When we are " away down 
north " fishing, these little fellows love to come 
on board. They never seem to be in a hurry, 
and we should be apt to say they are idle ; but 
they say, " If we get enough, why should we 
worry about getting more ? " When they want 
to buy anything from us they bring us the seal- 
skin boots that they make. These are all sewn 
most beautifully with the tendon from the rein- 
deer's back, so that they are perfectly water-tight ; 
and they are so soft that one's feet move freely in 


them. This makes them very warm, and so we 
value them for the ice hunting. The Eskimo 
like very much to get our trap-boats, for wood 
is very scarce with them. Last summer a man 
called Annanak, came round Cape Chidley in his 
oomiak, or woman-boat. It was almost square 
and quite flat-bottomed. It had a perfectly 
square sail of sealskin in the middle, and the 
man's two wives were rowing with two large 
oars made from pieces of drift-wood he had 
picked up in Hudson's Bay. He himself did the 
steering. There were in the boat, all told, no less 
than nineteen people, six dogs, and about a ton 
of seal oil, that he was carrying up to a Hudson's 
Bay Company's post to sell. Another Eskimo 
bought our trap-boat for twenty-six pairs of skin 
boots. I wish every one felt as happy and as rich 
as he did, when he went off, the owner of his own 
wooden boat 

For over one hundred years Moravian mission- 
aries from Germany have lived in Labrador 
among the Eskimo. They have built churches 
and schools for them, and taught them to read, 
write, play music and sing beautifully. They 
love singing, as every one does who has a con- 

130 Tb$ HARVEST of The SEA 

tented mind. The Moravians are a trading mis- 
sion, selling the Eskimo what they need, and 
receiving in return their fur and oil. Of late, 
also, they have encouraged the Eskimo to catch 
" fish." An Eskimo man thought it beneath his 
dignity to do any such work, formerly. The 
Moravians live all their lives on these barren 
shores, cut ofT from all the world, just for the 
sake of the Eskimo. There is no chance for 
their children to get on in Labrador, and this is 
the chief sacrifice the " Brethren," as they are 
called, have to make. For when one of their 
children comes to be seven years old, they have 
to send it home in the missionary ship Harmony ', 
which comes once a year to bring food and sup- 
plies, and they may never see the child any 
more. Such is the langer of not having food 
in this ice-bound country, that two years' sup- 
plies have to be kept on hand, ready for the day 
when perhaps some accident may happen to the 
Harmony ', and she may not arrive. It is one hun- 
dred and thirty-one years since the first ship 
Harmony sailed for Labrador. She has had to 
cross the wildest part of the wild Atlantic twice 
every year since, contending with wintry gales, 


and towering icebergs, and the densest fogs any- 
where in the world. Wars with other nations 
have raged, and countless other vessels have been 
seized and stripped and sunk ; but all these years 
the Harmony has always come safely, and the 
humble Brethren in Labrador have never yet had 
to draw on their reserve stock of provisions. 


THERE are perhaps no healthier people 
anywhere, than are we fisherfolk. And 
perhaps there is no healthier place than 
Labrador, so the doctors in Newfoundland often 
send their patients to Labrador for the summer, 
where the bracing air, the freedom from infectious 
germs and the sea-life make new men of worn- 
out material. Some twenty thousand people are 
spread out all along a thousand miles of coast 
for about five months of the year, and about 
three thousand stay there throughout the winter. 
Many are born, live and die there. The industry 
they pursue especially exposes them to accident, 
and in particular to cuts, sea-boils and ulcers 
from the poisoned water round their stages, where 
a small wound or even scratch often leads to 
abscess, gangrene and loss of part of a hand. 
Yet no doctor ever lived in Labrador, and the 
only help of that kind ever attainable was from 
the doctor on the small mail-steamer, which 



makes flying visits at very uncertain periods 
about nine times in the summer. I need not 
say how much unnecessary suffering had to be 
borne, and how many limbs or lives lost that 
might have been saved. 

It would amuse you, if I were to write you a 
record of the various ways we used to treat our 
ailments. I think they may all be put down 
under the heading of " faith cures." Certain 
people were supposed to be able to charm tooth- 
ache, and all inward pains arising from no visible 
cause. Many is the time I have been " charmed " 
as a boy. I am alive and strong still, thank God, 
but whether it was the charming that saved me, 
or the quantity of brimstone that mother insisted 
on my swallowing, I do not know ; but of one 
thing I am certain : I had to be very bad indeed 
before I let mother guess I needed medicine. If 
a man was badly cut and there was no way to 
stop the bleeding, we filled the wound with cut 
tobacco, and if that didn't stop it, with dry flour. 
I have picked up sacks of flour from a wrecked 
vessel that have floated in the sea for over a 
week, and the water has only soaked through 
about a quarter of an inch. For a poultice for 
swellings every one used the " tansy " plant, a 

i34 The HARVEST of The SEA 

common large yellow flower with green leaves. 
I can smell the sickly odour of it now ! for more 
than a haycock of it, all told, has been plastered 
onto my own sores, at times. If it was thought 
necessary that a poultice should " draw well," it 
was made of soap and molasses, for sugar was an 
article we seldom saw. As this was applied to 
ulcers and open sores, you can well imagine what 
it looked and felt like in a day or two, as it kept 
all the poisons in. But it was said to be so 
powerful it would draw your head to your heels, 
if only applied in the right place. All fevers were 
put down to " taking a chill," and the remedy 
was to take the reverse. That meant stewing the 
sick one over the hot stoves we use, in the small 
and crowded kitchens, and keeping out every 
possible whiff of fresh air. How many of those 
I have known, that have died of consumption, 
have been thus done to death with kindness, I 
should be afraid to guess. For it was of course 
thought equally impossible to expose the skin 
for washing, in the same circumstances. 

Plasters are always a greatly-prized remedy. I 
have known a man to wear six plasters at a time, 
including one on his face — for headache ! A 
plaster may be made of anything that will stick, 


and must be left on till it falls off. The best of 
all was made of stuff called " dragon's blood " : 
it was supposed to contain great virtue for 
strengthening. Such were many of our resources 
in sickness, and they would be comical, were 
they not often so tragical, and of such vital im- 
portance to us. Thus, on one occasion diphtheria 
was somehow brought to us. A poor fellow near 
me saw all his three children taken down with it. 
What to do he did not know ; nor did any of us 
know what was the matter. We knew it was 
" catching " and fatal, for many had died of it. 
This man's only remedy was to blister the throat 
outside, which he did by tying round it a salt 
herring. It blistered the throat all right, but of 
course did not save the boy. As soon as he 
found his second boy was choking and could 
swallow nothing, the poor father thought he 
needed something to u break the velum," so he 
tried greasing the inside of the throat with the 
rounded end of a tallow candle. All the three 
children died the same day. One poor father on 
another occasion came home in the winter to his 
house, where he had left his wife sick in bed, and 
found that his little five-year-old girl had toddled 
out unobserved, and had not returned. When 

136 The HARVEST of The SEA 

he found her, her legs below the knees # were 
badly frost-burned. They turned quite black 
and dead, and he was himself obliged to cut them 
both off with the only instrument he had — his axe. 
The little mail steamer used to take on board 
and carry home to Newfoundland any fisher- 
men supposed to be dying. No special pro- 
vision was made for him or her on board, and 
I heard the captain say once that seventeen he 
had thus carried had just " died where they lay." 
It often meant also a very serious loss to a 
humane skipper, for if one of his hands fell sick 
on the passage down, he was always in a great 
doubt as to what he ought to do. If he went on 
it meant perhaps suffering and death to the man, 
and if he went back it meant perhaps poverty 
and want for all their families next winter. Then, 
too, in the tiny tilts there could be no provision 
for sick women and children. There was little 
enough for them when they were well. Many 
of the green-fish catchers also carried girls as 
extra help, for their labour was much cheaper 
than a man's. If they were overtaken with sick- 
ness in these small and crowded cabins, what 
comfort, what chance — nay, what decency, — 
could there be for them ? I remember well a 


man losing one of his boys from scarlet fever 
in the cabin of his small schooner, just as she 
reached her station far down on the north coast 
of Labrador. All who die are carried home in 
the fall, and gruesome as it may seem, the child 
was carried back, preserved in salt, in the same 
vessel with a number of healthy people. What 
safety was possible for those poor folk? And 
yet, what were we able to do ? 


THE summer of 1892 was a hard one on 
the fishermen. Scarcely had we reached 
Labrador and begun fishing, when we 
learnt that a terrible fire had occurred in St. 
Johns, destroying virtually the whole city. We 
all suffered directly or indirectly, and my own 
prospects were rendered still more gloomy by the 
fact that we had done very badly with the fish 
during June and July. We had now sailed down 
as far north as we usually go, when the girl that 
I had shipped for the summer took ill. She was 
very bad indeed with inflammation of the lungs. 
I was terribly put to it, to know what to do. If 
I wanted fish, we must go on further from home ; 
yet if I did not get help somewhere, the girl 
might die in the dark uncomfortable bunk in our 
schooner's little cabin. It almost meant ruin to 
go back without enough fish to pay for the sup- 
plies we had had this summer; for I could 
scarcely expect the merchant to give us a 


"PREACH The WORD" 139 

winter's diet, after he had just had all his sup- 
plies burnt up. Between anxiety for the future 
and anxiety for the girl, I was almost driven out 
of my mind, for we had no comforts for the sick 
on board, or medicines either, nor should we have 
known how to use them if we had had them. 
Any chance of forgetting one's troubles even in 
sleep were denied me, for who could sleep in 
hearing of the constant moaning of a person 
whose life he was responsible for, in the same 
little cabin where his own bunk was ? 

It was the 18th of August, and the wind was 
in the nor' west, blowing strong out of the bay. 
Our boys had just come in from the trap — un- 
successful again, and I was walking up and down 
on deck, ready to throw myself over the side, as 
a skipper did last summer, in Makkovik harbour, 
after tying the kedge anchor round his neck, 
when I noticed a very large and smart ketch- 
rigged vessel come round the souther head, and 
stand into the bay. She sailed like a witch, and 
was no vessel I had ever seen on the Labrador 
coast before. Every line of her was English from 
her truck to her cut-water, though she was smart 
enough to be an American pleasure yacht. 

As I watched her she tacked and bore up for 

140 The HARVEST of The SEA 

our harbour. I saw then she carried too much 
beam for the extra " half knot per hour " that all 
pleasure-seekers sacrifice so much for. No, she 
was built for keeping the sea, that was evident ; 
and what was more, she had recently been 
sheathed to stand ice. What could she be ? I 
had never seen the like of her. A few minutes 
later she hove up in the wind and let go her two 
anchors. " Never been here before," I thought, 
as I heard the skipper shout out to " let go a* 
port." He evidently had been afraid of our 

" Come, boys, out boat ! Let's go aboard, and 
see what she is, anyhow." 

You may be sure we took notice of all her 
points as we rowed towards her. Just as we 
crossed her bow to get at the ladder on the far 
side, 'Lije (that's my trap-master) sang out, 

" She's got a good name, anyhow— hasn't she, 
skipper ? " 

It seemed an odd name to me. There, carved 
in letters of gold on her starboard rail, were the 
words, Preach the Word. But, odder still, on her 
port rail, in the same place, were the words, Heal 
the Sick. 

As we made fast to the side, the skipper came 

"PREACH The WORD" 141 

to the rail and gave us a fisherman's welcome. 
" What cheer, friend ? Glad to see you. Come 
aboard ! " 

As I think of it now, he must have thought 
me an odd fish. For once on board, I stood like 
a stuck pig, with my mouth open, trying to take 
her in. Teak decks and hatches, iron skylights, 
pitch-pine spars throughout, brass pumps as clean 
as new pins, — surely, she must be a pleasure 
yacht, after all. I began to be sorry I had tres- 
passed in coming aboard. Yet there was en- 
graved on her great oak wheel words I had 
never seen on a ship's wheel before : " Jesus 
saith, follow Me, and I will make you fishers of 

" Can't make us out, eh ? " said the skipper at 
last, who had been watching me all the time with 
an amused smile. 

" No, sir," I answered ; " she is the first of her 
kind I ever set eyes on." 

" Come below and have a look at her, and see 
if you can make her out then." 

She was as trim below as on deck. Her large 
hold was grained and varnished. The ballast- 
deck was covered with oilcloth, and there was 
an harmonium there. A large cabin, right across 



142 The HARVEST of The SEA 

the ship amidships, was brightly done up with 
panels of pitch-pine and walnut. Eight beds in 
it were covered with bright-coloured quilts. Two 
of these were on pivots and swung to and fro 
with the rolling of the ship — or, rather, stood 
still while the deck swayed beneath them. 
That's our hospital," said the skipper. 
Hospital ! You haven't got a doctor aboard, 
have you ? " 

" Why of course we have," he replied ; " do you 
want to see him ? " 

" Well, we have a girl aboard our schooner, who 
is dying. Do you think he would come aboard 
and see her ? " 

" You had better ask him yourself," said the 
skipper; and without wasting a moment, he 
knocked at a door in the after end of the hos- 
pital, and said, 

" Doctor, there's a man here wants to see 

In half a minute a young doctor was shaking 
me by the hand, saying, 

" Well, skipper, glad to see you. What can I 
do for you ? " 

" We've only got very poor accommodation, 
doctor," I replied, " but our girl is very sick, and 

"PREACH The WORD " 143 

I thought you might be kind enough to come 
and tell us what to do for her." 

" Of course I will, skipper. Why, that's what 
we are sent here for. To show how grateful we 
are for what the Master did for us, by trying 
to do the same for others. Come along. No 
time like the present." 

So this was the mission-ship ! We had heard 
some talk of one coming, but had thought it only 
one of the idle rumours of the coast. 




SOME people say " missions ? — missions 
are all cant." In half an hour our girl was 
in that beautiful little hospital. She didn't 
find much cant about this mission, anyhow ! 
For if there is no heaven hereafter, that hospital 
was very like heaven to her here, after what she 
had gone through in our poor cabin. Moreover, 
when the mission-ship went on her way, the girl 
went with her, and stayed aboard till she got well 
in that little hospital, though the doctor said she 
had " New Moanier." Then they gave her a 
passage home in the mail steamer. And I know 
her old father and mother didn't find any cant 
about it, when Mary told them how it all hap- 
pened. And what's more, I know I didn't, either. 
For from that day things took a turn with us. 
We fell in with the fish, and made a saving voy- 
age of it after all. " May He who gives all good 
gifts reward those who helped to send her out," 



say I. And many a hundred fishermen have said 
the same since that day. 

For the mission-ship did not come only to 
doctor up sick people. While she lay in the har- 
bours, any one was welcome aboard. You could 
play a game there, when times were slack ; and 
not a few took advantage of the chance, I'm glad 
to say. For idle hands are as dangerous here as 
anywhere. Then the reading she gave out ! It 
wasn't just all one kind : you could get what 
people call " light reading " — though I know it 
must have weighed a good many tons ! Then 
she had a pile of sermons in what they called 
their " woollen lockers." Our work is often bit- 
terly cold ; for if the water isn't cold enough in 
itself, there are always the icebergs to prevent its 
getting over hot. Moreover, Labrador isn't a 
great country for grazing sheep, and though we 
have one or two head when we can, and card 
and spin and knit our own mits and helmets and 
underwear, — when a woman has a lot of children, 
some one has to go short, and mits and mufflers 
are never over plentiful, while I have seen many 
a poor fellow without any at all. Yes, and I 
have also seen them without stockings under their 
boots. The mission-ship found many in that 

146 The HARVEST of The SEJ 

plight, the road to whose hearts could be reached 
with a quiet little gift of some much needed 
woollens ; while the great sea-boot stockings, 
such as they use in the North Sea, were a revela- 
tion to all of us. 

Every evening prayers were held aboard, and 
of course you could stay or go just as you liked. 
They were just simple " fishermen's meetings." 
The doctor or the skipper led the service, or per- 
haps one of the crew, if the others were busy. 
Some of us found this the best part of all the 
work she tried to do. The meetings were the 
means of opening up a new life to many a man 
who before had only thought of himself and 
pleasing his own desires. More than one of my 
friends started there to try and " do the thing 
that pleaseth Thee," as the Psalm says. Some 
five years after, the doctor was aboard me again 
to see one of my men, who was laid up. As he 
was going, the man said : 

" You evidently don't remember me, Doc- 

" No, I can't say I do. Did I ever see you 
before ? " 

" Yes, sir ; you did. Don't you mind two men, 
who decided to serve the Lord one night, after 


service on the rocks at Paul's Island ? I was one 
of those men, sir." 
" Well, what difference has it made to you ? " 
The man was silent for a bit, and then said, 
" Perhaps you had better ask my wife, sir. The 
skipper here ought to know, too. He lives near 
me at home. Anyhow, if I have to die down 
here this time, I'm not afraid." 

As the doctor came on deck he took me aside, 
and asked me, 

" How about the man's life at home ? " 
" He has been a different man, these last five 
years. I wish you could see the difference it has 
made in his home," I answered quite truly. 
" You did more for him and his then, than you'll 
ever do again, even if you do pull him through 
this sickness." 

I didn't see any more of the mission-ship that 
summer, after she left where I was fishing, but I 
heard she did just the same all along the coast. 
The only pity of it was (so it seemed to me) that 
like angel's visits, hers were so few and far be- 
tween. In the fall, however, when the winter 
weather drove us all south again, as our schooner 
lay in St. Johns discharging her fish and getting 
supplies to take home for the winter, — there, sure 

148 The HARVEST of The SEA 

enough, close alongside us lay the mission-ship. 
She was getting stowed away for the long voy- 
age home across the Atlantic, and every night a 
lot of her newly found friends were aboard her, I 
among them, you may be sure. Would she 
come back ? That was what we all wanted to 

A great number of the fishermen got talking to 
their merchants about her, so quite an interest 
was created in her in St. Johns, and at last the 
Governor himself called a big meeting to see 
what could be done. All the chief merchants 
and planters were there, and passed a resolution 
to be sent home to those who sent the ship out, 
saying that they would gladly subscribe towards 
the expense, if only she were sent again. The 
doctor told them at the meeting thathehad treated 
nine hundred sick and injured fishermen, and 
showed the books that every one might see the 
kind of cases he was called on to help, with the 
name and address of every fisherman he had 
treated. But there were some things he said 
would have to be done, if the ship ever came 
again, and the best was to be expected of her. 
The cliffs in Labrador are very high, and there 
are no tugboats to help a sailing vessel in or out 


of the long and often very narrow fjords. A 
steamer or a steam launch attached to the ship 
would enable her to do ten times the work in the 
same time. Then again, many of the patients 
were not fit to be left, and could not be sent 
home, and yet there were too many for the little 
hospital on the ship. Many besides, who were 
badly in need of help, didn't know where to go 
to find the mission-ship. So a shore hospital 
was sorely needed to assist the work. Then 
again, there was no possible way of nursing the 
cases properly on board, especially if they were 
infectious, or if some severe operation had to 
be performed; so a trained nurse was needed, 
if we fishermen were to hope to get such treat- 
ment as those who stayed at home and never 
went out to enrich the colony, should get in the 
hospital at St. Johns. It was plain, also, that a 
great source of immediate loss in money might 
be stayed, if some of the sick were able to go and 
get cured in a week or two, and then go back to 
the fishing, instead of being sent far south to their 
homes, losing the whole season. 

Some meetings end in talk, but this one didn't. 
The merchants at once promised to pay for the 
erection of two such little hospitals, if the mis- 

1 5 o The HARVEY of The SEA 

sion would take over the management and keep 
them working. One merchant, indeed, said that 
he was prepared to give a new house at a place 
called Battle Harbour for the first hospital. 
When the mission-ship at length got up her 
anchors and spread her sails for the homeward 
voyage, she carried with her the letters from that 
meeting, signed by the Governor and all the 
leading men. Would she come back or not? 
That was the question I and many others asked 
ourselves, more than once that winter. 



THE long winter went at last, and once 
again we ran our schooner into St. 
Johns to fit out for Labrador. You 
can judge how glad I was when, as we bore up 
to anchor, we saw right ahead of us floating in 
the stream, the mission hospital ship. There she 
was, with ail her bunting flying, and above all 
the rest the broad blue burgee, with " Mission to 
Deep Sea Fishermen " in white letters on it ; and 
lying alongside was a smart little steam launch, 
the Princess May, flying the same token. When 
I went aboard I found that she was just out, 
and that two more doctors had come to us, and 
two nurses also, for the two little mission hos- 
pitals, which those in the old country had de- 
cided to accept and work. They were to be two 
hundred miles apart on the Atlantic coast, one 
just on the north side of the Straits of Belle Isle, 
and the other at the entrance to Hamilton Inlet. 
The news soon flashed along the coast, perhaps 

152 The HARVEST of The SEA 

none the slower for there being no regular tele- 
graph or other means of communication. More 
than one poor fisherman who feared to start for so 
long a cruise, if he could not be near any help till 
he returned, put out for Labrador with an easy- 
mind, while many a mother going down to the 
far-off fishing station, did so with a confidence 
she had never enjoyed before. 

But now that the people began to know what 
it meant to be able to get to a doctor in the 
summer when they were in pain or sickness, those 
who stay in Labrador were anxious to get a place 
kept open in the winter, that they could go to for 
help. There were often cases where poor men 
died for want of knowledge what to do. Thus 
at one place on the coast, a man was hunting 
when his gun went off and shot him in the shoul- 
der. A good friend stopped the bleeding by 
packing up the hole with a stocking ; but a week 
later it began again, and the man lost his life, and 
left six children behind him. Then again, when 
another man shot himself in the elbow, all they 
could do was to tie it up with cold water. As a 
result he lost his right arm, — and what is a fisher- 
man able to do without a right arm ? Ever 
since, his family has lived from hand to mouth 


on the charity of neighbours. Of course, some 
said that people couldn't get to a hospital in 
winter, as the sea is frozen then. But the doctor 
said he was willing to stay and see what could 
be done. So when every one else started for 
home, the doctor was left on Caribou Island, and 
half the mission crew said that was the last they 
expected to see of him. He set to work in 
earnest, however, and not only was alive in the 
spring, but had travelled twelve hundred miles 
with his dogs, and visited far and wide up and 
down the coast. 

The southern hospital has never been closed 
since that day. Indeed, it has been doubled in 
size, and is now full to overflowing all the summer 
long, while once in winter seven komatiks, drawn 
by over sixty dogs, accompanied the doctor back 
to hospital one day, each carrying a patient. 

The hardest thing the doctor found to contend 
with, was the great poverty of the settlers in the 
winter, and the diseases that arose from lack of 
proper food. Every spring he met with cases of 
true scurvy, the disease that once carried off so 
many of the sailors on their long voyages to the 
Spanish main, but is seldom or never seen in 
civilized countries nowadays. More than onc^ 

i 5 4 The HARVEST of The SEA 

the food he was carrying along for his dogs, had 
to be shared with the children of the house he 
was visiting. The reason was not far to seek. 
The settlers when they made a good voyage were 
unable to save, for never being paid in cash they 
were tempted to take up a lot of unnecessary 
articles, rather than " leave on the books " with 
their trader that rather visionary possession known 
as " a balance coming to you." Thus in bad sea- 
sons there was nothing to fall back on, while at 
the same time what is known as " credit prices " 
were always booked against them. Moreover, 
after a bad season, unless they were good furri- 
ers, they could earn nothing in winter. It was 
unavoidable, therefore, that the men with large 
families were either hungry or overwhelmed with 

I was sitting, one autumn day, on the end of a 
long, rocky promontory over which the southern- 
flying ducks are always waylaid, when a nor'easter 
blows the fog in, and makes the birds fly close to 
the land. There is no more exciting time, per- 
haps, for about twenty men, all with long, large- 
bore guns, await the immense flocks that sud- 
denly emerge from the fog, whirl like lightning 
over the cape, and disappear again. On this day 


there sat behind me one of the men I had always 
known as the keenest lover of his gun ; yet with 
his head resting on his bent-up knees, he was 
looking vacantly into space. His gun, which he 
had brought along from habit, was lying unloaded 
on the rocks beside him. It was " settling-day " 
with his merchant, and he had done badly that 

" What, not shooting, Jim ? " I asked. " Surely, 
you aren't going to let them all off, are you ? " 

" What's the good ? " he replied. " I've got 
to starve anyhow." 

" What's the matter now ? " I said. 

" The matter is, I've got nothing for the winter, 
and what few ducks I can kill won't keep my 
kids alive." 

" What's the balance against you ? " I asked. 

"Something over three thousand dollars," he 

" Three thousand what!" I exclaimed. 

" Dollars," he jerked out, mechanically. 

I thought to myself there must be some mis- 
take; but I found out afterwards that there was 
no mistake at all, for when the great crash took 
place, and so many merchant firms went bank- 
rupt, the debts to the firm at this one place were 

156 The HARVEST of The SEA 

stated in the assets as " Outstanding debts at 
this Harbour, $64,000. Value, nil" The credit 
system, though impossible to get rid of at a 
moment's notice, was injurious to all who prac- 
ticed it. The doctor got hopeless of curing folk 
whom he had to send back to chronic starvation, 
and of cruel cases of tubercular diseases in so 
many young children, in a climate where there 
is no excuse for the tubercle bacillus, except the 
miserable poverty of the people. 

Could anything be done to preach the gospel, 
on economic lines ? Or should he be satisfied to 
work away with his eyes tightly closed, trying to 
undo what he saw would all be done over again 
directly he had reached the end of his tether? 
At least no one could blame him for trying. 
Should he go on preaching the salvation of the 
soul in the next world, while he witnessed the 
damnation of the body in this, without making 
an effort to mitigate the situation, however feeble 
it might prove ? 


WITH this object in view a small co- 
operative store was started at a place 
in Labrador called Red Bay, the fish- 
ermen themselves putting in what cash they 
could scrape together in five-dollar shares. This 
store has been in operation now for nearly ten 
years. It has done a great deal to render the 
neighbouring fishermen independent. It has 
cheapened very materially the prices of goods, 
especially the main articles of consumption, such 
as salt, flour, butter, tea, and pork. It has not 
accomplished all it might have done, if a busi- 
ness man had been there to manage it ; but it is 
still a decided success, and the managers, almost 
illiterate fishermen, have learnt a great deal from 
it. The opinion of the people there is, that were 
it not for the little cooperative store, they would 
have had to leave the place before this. During 
these years four other stores of the same kind 
have been established along the coast. These 


1 58 The HARVEST of The SEA 

are all in a sense affiliated, the same agent buy- 
ing for all of them in St. Johns, and the same 
schooner, the Cooperator, which belongs to them, 
bringing them their supplies and carrying away 
their fish. 

To keep the people going, however, without 
occasional dependence on credit, which is the 
same thing as charity here, it was evident that 
an increased capacity for earning was necessary, 
and that could only be acquired by getting work 
in the winter. The doctor therefore obtained 
from the Newfoundland government a timber 
area on special terms, to enable any one in need 
to get at least enough food for the time by haul- 
ing out logs for the mill, while it would afford 
labour as well to many who thus would be en- 
abled to save against bad times. 

At first, the mill did not prosper, as lumbering 
was entirely new to the doctor, who knew more 
of pills than mills, and yet was unable to import 
a manager, owing to the smallness of his capital. 
This however has been remedied now, and a 
flourishing little industry has sprung up relieving 
all the poverty in the district round. Over sixty 
families now live all winter where none lived 
before. Their children can go to the schooJ 


they have built there, and the people gather 
with ease for prayers on Sunday. Some have 
also developed a talent for schooner building, 
and they have already turned out two smart 

Among those who have known most of Lab- 
rador, none is better known to the world than 
Lord Strathcona, the famous pioneer of the 
Canadian Pacific Railway, the High Commis- 
sioner for Canada, and the giver to the nation 
of the services of the Strathcona Horse. His 
knowledge of the conditions of life in Labrador 
led him to give the mission a smart little steamer, 
which was used to replace the sailing hospital- 
ship, while the launch was used to bring sick to 
and from the southern hospital. 

This steamer was harboured in Labrador her 
third winter, and when the doctor, under whose 
care she was, went to look for her in the spring, 
she was nowhere to be found. He had grapples 
made, and dragged the harbour to see if she 
were sunk in the ice. Meanwhile she had gone 
on a long voyage by herself. While the great 
sealing steamers were at work in the heavy ice 
in the month of March, some of the men descried 
a spar sticking up out of one of the immense 

160 The HARVEST of The SEA 

pans of ice. On closer inspection they found 
that it was an imbedded steamer, and on care- 
ful examination they found it was the mission- 
steamer. She had gone to sea in the ice of her 
own accord, taking her anchors and chains with 
her. Oddly enough, too, the seals that the men 
were in search of were all around her, so much 
so, that a rumour got about that they were ac- 
tually taking tea in her cabin. The steamer was 
cut out and towed to St. Johns, where she had 
to be condemned and sold for what she would 
fetch. Many good friends, however, rallied round 
the work, the value of which had made itself so 
plainly felt. Money was freely subscribed, the 
list being headed again by Lord Strathcona, after 
whom the new steamer is named. She is a smart 
steel ten-knot boat, with auxiliary sail power, that 
crossed the Atlantic in ten days. She has a 
splendid little hospital amidships, and is com- 
manded by the doctor, who happens to be a 
master mariner. 

A third hospital was added last year. It is on 
the south side of the straits of Belle Isle, and 
among a people who have no other possible 
means of getting skilled help. It is in a beau- 


tiful harbour called St. Anthony. A second 
steam-launch has also been given, which runs 
all summer to and from the most northern hos- 

Many other methods of preaching the gospel 
of love have also been adopted. A number of 
orphaned and crippled children have been taken 
and sent to new homes in Canada or the States. 
Many have been trained and sent out to earn a 
living as servants. Then again, small libraries 
have been started all along the coast. These are 
in shelved cases, and are moved on from place 
to place as they are read. A regular carpenter 
teaching-shop, with sloyd benches, has been 
started at St. Anthony Hospital, and a number 
of young lads have received regular teaching 
from a skilled carpenter. Ambulance lectures 
have been given, and a number have taken the 
certificate of capacity to render first aid to the 
wounded. Night schools, working classes, etc., 
are carried on by the sisters at the various hos- 
pitals in the long winter evenings ; so that I have 
never visited them without finding them busy 
and cheerful. The gospel of cheerfulness and 
cleanliness and hope seemed to exhale from these 

162 The HARVEST of The SEA 

centres of work for our great Master, while the 
reason of it all is to be read as one enters Battle 
Harbour. For there, in letters a foot long, carved 
all across the face of the hospital so that he who 
runs may read, are these words : 

" Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least 
of these, My brethren, ye did it unto Me." 

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